On Enjoying a stellar Performance

I’ve been away from playing the cello for a few months (a gardening injury to my left hand left me with tendonitis and the need to rest my hand), so it was a joy to get a birthday present from my husband of tickets to a concert in New Bedford featuring Carter Brey playing the Schumann Cello Concerto with the New Bedford Symphony.  Additionally, a friend of ours (who is the official photographer of the orchestra) told us we definitely should attend the preconcert talk which the conductor, David Mackenzie, provides before each concert.  And, since Mackenzie, a suburb conductor, is leaving for Hawaii after this season, this was a chance to see another of his performances.

Carter playing the Schumann

Carter Brey playing the Schumann Concerto with David Mackenzie conducting

I’ve been to a lot of concert evenings, but this ranks right up there as one of the most special.  Carter Brey came to the preconcert discussion with Conductor Mackenzie.  After David Mackenzie discussed the Britten sea pieces and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”, Carter Brey talked about Schumann, and said more about the concerto we were about to hear.  He brought out his cello (he talked about it’s history and how he came to own it) and played some excerpts that we should listen for.  He was even gracious enough to allow our friend to take a photo of me with him.  What a nice person!

Discussing the Schumann

Preconcert Talk: David and Carter discussing the concert

Carter describing his cello

Carter discussing his cello


Carter Brey's Cello

Carter Brey’s Cello


The concert was stellar.  I provided a link below to a review from one of the local papers.  Brey’s playing of the Schumann was wonderful: beautiful, sonorous, emotional. (I wish my cello sounded like that!) In the preconcert talk Brey mentioned that he played this concerto for the first time in Washington, DC with Rostropovich conducting.  Someone mentioned to me that Rostropovich thought that Brey’s playing of Schumann was among the best.  I certainly thought so after hearing the performance.  At the end of his performance he hugged all the principals (he clearly had wonderful rapport with the orchestra), and then for the last piece on the program he drew up a chair at the back of the cello section and played with the orchestra (something I’ve also seen Yo-Yo Ma do).  It’s so inspiring to see this kind of love of music making.  To Mackenzie’s and the orchestra’s credit, the Mussorgsky was one of the best performances I’ve heard of that piece; it was filled with energy and dynamics and came to such a rousing conclusion that it brought the hall to it’s feet.  Such a memorable and inspiring evening!  Thank you Carter Brey and thank you to the New Bedford Symphony, a wonderful local orchestra filled with talent.

Review: NBSO offers evening of education, exultation

Carol and Carter Brey



Some Updates

String Ensemble is finished for the fall.  Meetings were rather sporadic (our coach was away and then ill) and we never worked up a full program for a concert.  The group was very small this fall, actually too small for two cellos and a bass (only three violins and 1 viola), so I’m going to drop out for the winter.  Doesn’t make sense to have the director always saying to the cellos, please play more softly, you are too loud, when we are barely touching the strings!

We did do a partial program at the Christmas Concert at the conservatory, so at least we did work up a few pieces for performance, which was good.

String Ensemble Program

String Ensemble Program 2

The cello choir finally got organized toward the end of the fall session. Several people have dropped out already, so I’m not at all sure that it will continue.  The selected pieces are way easy and I’ve been playing 4th cello; this is awful on my 7/8 cello, which has terrible wolfs on the C string where most of the playing happens for those parts.  And the parts are so easy, that it’s hard to take them seriously and practice!!!  So I guess I’m back to no ensemble playing for the foreseeable future!

I have started working again on the Bach Suites.  I’m also back to working on some Popper etudes and want to go back and work again on pieces that I’ve learned previously.  I’ve spent far too much of my time this fall on ensemble pieces that I’ve just not enjoyed.

Cello Choir is a ‘Go’

I found out last night at String Ensemble that we have enough cellists for the new Conservatory Cello Choir to start.  We have six people, everyone is a fairly experienced cellist so that should mean that we will have great fun together.  First practice is on November 6th.  Looking forward to it!

I also note that the Boston Cello Quartet is now offering a cello choir course at the Boston Conservatory!  Cello Choirs must be the new ‘in thing’.  🙂


Cello Choir?

The conductor of our string ensemble (who is a cellist) is thinking of starting a cello choir at the Conservatory.  A fantastic idea,  I think, because the Cape seems to have an abundance of cellists who enjoy playing and like playing in groups.

So far there are at least 5 cellists interested, maybe more.  If this works out, I will be playing in two string groups this fall (the string ensemble and the cello choir).  I’m looking forward to that; my biggest enjoyment from playing the cello is playing in groups with others.  I love the sound of the harmonies, particularly when we get the tuning right! I have my fingers crossed that this works out.

The string ensemble music this fall is much easier than previous years; our conductor wants to focus on intonation and musicality and has picked pieces that we can learn well quickly so that we can really work on intonation and performance.  So far, it’s been good.

Ensemble practicing

The Bulletproof Musician has an interesting post this week on his blog: “Rehearse to practice or practice to rehearse”.  It’s about being well prepared for ensemble practices. It really spoke to me, because so often I think of ensemble meetings as “practices” and go thinking I will learn my parts as I practice them with the ensemble.  I do go over my parts during the week.  But I’ve never spent nearly as much time learning my ensemble parts as I have on pieces I am preparing for lessons.

This post really suggests a better way!  If one goes to an ensemble practice with one’s parts fully prepared, then the ensemble “rehearsal” becomes a time when you can truly focus on playing with others, listening to the other parts, adjusting intonation so it fits with the other musicians.  You can work on dynamics, watch the conductor and follow him, watch and interact with the other players, really work on playing the pieces, not work on learning the parts.  I agree with everything that was said in this article, and I’m hoping to live up to those ideals in my preparation when ensemble begins for the fall next week.

Rehearse to practice or practice to rehearse


Tchaikovsky Competition

I watched both the cello and piano sections of the Tchaikovsky Competition from Russia this year.  It was interesting listening to a lot of excellent musicians and learning how the preferences of the judges were different from my own.  I did read a lot of comments, and there was discussion of how, in the cello competition, if you weren’t there there were things you missed including volume of the music and projection (just not noticeable listening to the performances through the microphone).  It did seem as if the judges liked modern Russian pieces a lot!

In the piano competition I thought George Li should have placed even higher. His expression and touch on the keys was amazing.

I did notice how few female entrants there were and how those that did compete did not do well in the competition. Here in the eastern US cello is very popular and there are lots and lots of female cellists.  The cello competition (and the others as well) seemed very male centered.  I did wonder about that.

The performances are available streaming on Medici TV for the next four years.  Supposed this was one of the most watched musical events all over the world in history.  Great music for sure!



Teaching adults

Do read this article by Robert Battey, posted on the Internet Cello Society board.  He talks about teaching adult cello students and the differences he sees between teaching adult beginners and very young students.

I liked what he had to say about the limitations of the Suzuki approach for adults (how the approach used for young students may not serve adults nearly as well). He feels traditional lessons often do not prepare adult students for ensemble or community orchestra playing, a goal many adult students have.  He talks also about teaching students whose adult muscles and physiology require alternate approaches.