Monday, November 28, 2016

A Case for Strength & Gentleness on the Cello

I recently read THE SOLOIST by Mark Salzman, which features a cellist who was once a child prodigy and is now struggling to return to the stage after kind of collapsing as a performer.
In many ways I feel lucky to have come to the cello so late in life. Any pressure I feel is self-inflicted and doesn't come from well-meaning parents or teachers. There isn't a lot of thought about the future and what I will "do" with it. I'm just going to play because I want to play, for as long as I feel that way, and that's it!

Here are some quotes from the book:

If a thirty-year-old man were to play exactly the way I did at fifteen, no none would have insisted that he become better. No one would have said, “I can't wait to hear you when you're forty.” Now I think I know what happened to me. Since musically I couldn't see how to improve, any more than one can willfully improve one's capacity for hunger or joy, I turned my attention to the only aspect I could control, which was intonation.

When you play music well, you are transported. However my experience has been that you cannot make great music happen; you can only prepare yourself for it to happen. To a degree, your preparation determines what will happen, but once it starts happening yo have to surrender ourself to it. Once you do so you are free, except that you are free only within the boundaries you created through your preparation.

I pulled my French edition of Pablo Casals's autobiography down from the shelf and read aloud one of his better-known quotes: “Dans la vie il faut montrer du caractere et de la gentillesse.” I translated it as “In life, one must show both strength and gentleness,” and I explained that as cellists, we try to apply this theory to our playing.

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