A new cello, and a Rachmaninoff performance

2011 Nov 12

Recently I purchased a new cello. This had not been in my plans, and was a surprise to me.

Larry and Rachel playing

One weekend I was at a guitar store, and I tried out their good acoustic guitars. I realized that I didn't find them to be significantly better than the guitar I already had.

Later that day, Melanie & I were passing another music store, and I remembered that she wanted to buy a flute stand. So we stopped in. While she was picking it out, I wandered over to the cellos and asked if I could play them. That was an interesting experience because I found out I didn't know what kind of sound I wanted in a cello.

So I started trying out cellos from multiple shops. Did you know that the better string (instrument) shops will let you out their door with a borrowed multi-thousand dollar instrument even though you did not pay them any money? At one point I had three borrowed cellos in addition to my old one at home.

Since I wasn't looking for an improved guitar, maybe an improved cello would be good. Certainly my old cello was not great. It's best feature was that I owned it and it was available to me for playing!   :-)

So I played a lot of cellos, and slowly distinguished what I wanted. I preferred a hand-made European instrument (better wood, and it would hold its value better). I wanted an instrument that could produce an even sound across the range of the instrument, and that seemed alive because it produced sound easily.

After I settled on an instrument, then I needed to pick out a bow. Surprisingly, the bow needs to be chosen by how well it plays a specific cello.

The comparison to my old cello is astonishing. If I pick up the old one, having just put down the new one, it would sound to you like I went into the next room, closed the door and then started playing. My new cello lets me make sounds that I previously had only heard in recordings by good cellists.

So, now I needed to start playing more music. I did some on-line research, bought some pieces of music, and then re-discovered some Rachmaninoff music I already had. Maybe I had decided it was too difficult for me before. (Or maybe I wasn't sufficiently motivated? :-)

Rachmaninoff wrote a sonata for cello and piano. The piece is interesting because he considered the two instruments to be equals. They pass themes back and forth, and at times duet together. And it had a movement I thought I could learn.

In our band at church, our young pianist was an amazing musician. I knew she would be in a piano recital in the fall, so I proposed a challenge for both of us: that we would learn this piece and perform it for her recital. She talked with her piano teacher, and they decided, "Yes". So we worked hard.

It all came together on Friday, and was a good success.

Video of Rachel & Larry:

  Rachmaninoff Op. 19, Sonata for Cello and Piano, Andante

(Unfortunately my camera shut off in the middle of the piece. So I used an alternate video source for the last half.)