Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Cellists on the Cape

We're having a good season of diverse cello performances here.

In January, Lynn Harrell was scheduled to appear with the Cape Symphony Orchestra. He rehearsed with the CSO on Friday night for the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon performances. Saturday morning he suddenly had to return home to be with his wife during a difficult childbirth, leaving the orchestra without a soloist. Orchestra members, staff, and friends scrambled to find another cellist to play Schumann's Cello Concerto in a minor. Sebastian Baverstam, a 17-year-old cellist from outside Boston, came to the rescue. He had performed this concerto only twice before, most recently when he was 15. He arrived an hour before the performance was to begin. With no time to rehearse with the orchestra, he played beautifully, from memory. Everyone gave him rave reviews. I was, unfortunately, out of town. My teacher told me the story; ever encouraging, she said this was a good lesson in why I should strive to keep all my pieces in memory. Well, I doubt I'll be soloing with an orchestra any time soon, but it's still good advice.

In February Denise Djokic played Saint-Saens's Cello Concerto No. 1 in Falmouth with Simon Sinfonietta, charming everyone, according to the Cape Cod Times, with her passionate and technically solid playing. Again, I missed this concert, out of town again.

Finally, on Sunday evening, I was able to attend a cello performance: the "New Rigged Ship" at the Woods Hole Folk Music Society. Jacqueline Schwab, pianist, and Reinmar Seidler, cellist, played traditional tunes from Scotland and the Shetland Islands, and Seidler told amusing tales about the music. I was looking forward to this concert because I love Abby Newton's album of celtic music, Crossing to Scotland, so much. But, for much of the concert, I found myself trying to enjoy the music, rather than actually enjoying it. Seidler's cello playing seemed a little rough and scratchy. He was best on the slow airs, and did improve in the second half of the show. Schwab's piano accompaniment was often too much of the same chords, and sometimes the piano and cello seemed to be playing different tunes. My teacher thought the piano was too loud, forcing the cellist to try to play even louder, thus distorting his sound. I wonder if they just had a bad night. Schwab performed on Ken Burns' PBS documentaries, including "The Civil War," and both perform on Burns' upcoming documentary on World War II. I will give them another chance.

In April, one of my favorite cellists, Eugene Friesen, will not only perform, but give a workshop for cello students. He's a very innovative, imaginative contemporary cellist.

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