I Speak Cello

Brian Lauritzen isn’t just a familiar voice on KUSC, he’s also a cellist. His two worlds collide Friday, March 9 at 7:30 PM when KUSC broadcasts live from the opening night concert of the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival. But before the festival starts, how about some…

FUN CELLO FACTS FROM BRIAN LAURITZEN

  1. The most money paid for a cello was $6.25 million. It was a 1999 sale of Antonio Stradivari’s “Bonjour” cello, made in 1696. Currently, it is on loan to the Canada Council for the Arts, which loans the instrument for three-year periods to the winner of its national competition. Canadian cellist Rachel Mercer is nearing the end of her time with the “Bonjour” Strad, which is up in September 2012. The instrument is estimated to be valued at more than $8 million.
  2. The endpin is a relatively new piece of technology for a cello. Early instruments were simply held between the performers’ calves. This was true all the way through most of the 19th century. During the mid-1800s, the Belgian cellist and composer Adrien-François Servais was the first person to start using an endpin for his Stradivarius cello. But most cellists didn’t follow suit until the beginning of the 20th century.
  3. Traveling with a cello is an arduous affair. Most cellists choose to buy an extra plane ticket for their instruments. Even so, problems with overzealous TSA officials and airline gate agents crop up with regularity. In the years immediately following September 11th, 2001, the cello’s endpin was considered a weapon and needed to be removed and placed in checked baggage. Several cellists had their endpins confiscated while traveling. I remember playing a concert with Peter Wiley, who had to borrow an endpin because his had been impounded. As a result, among cellists, there is extensive knowledge of different aircraft models and even an unwritten rating system for which airlines are friendliest (Continental) and which are most problematic (Northwest). Cellist Greg Beaver of the Chiara Quartet has more information than you might care to know about this on his blog.
  4. A number of great composers were also cellists. They include J.S. Bach, Luigi Boccherini, Jacques Offenbach, and Heitor Villa-Lobos.
  5. The Los Angeles Philharmonic will be holding auditions for a new principal cellist in May. The repertoire list hasn’t yet been released, but last year’s audition for the associate principal chair is quite demanding: a complete concerto & 2 contrasting movements of Bach Suites (all memorized)…plus, a list of a dozen or so of the most difficult orchestral excerpts from Mozart to Prokofiev to John Adams. (I bet the LA Phil is the only orchestra to have Adams’ City Noir on its excerpt list.)
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One thought on “I Speak Cello

  1. Some time ago now you wrote an article that makes some ptonis that I am more and more a believer in. You wrote that the latissimus dorsi are literally our cello-playing muscles, providing the energy to take up our cellos as prepare to play, to maneuver the left hand and to push and pull the string with the bow. But there are some parts of the article, like the musculature of the back must lengthen and widen to provide the counterbalance to the weight of the head going forward and up that are still beyond me. I’m looking forward to more of your blog posts in the future.

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