I’m pleased to announce that I have released a digital score for my cello quintet arrangement of Schubert’s Andante from his piano trio no. 2 in E-flat major. Having made a recording of the arrangement (also available to buy), I should probably warn in advance of the trickiness, especially in parts 1, 3 and 4. Suitable for advanced cellists – grade 8 and above.
New strings! We string players are spoilt for choice these days with new brands popping up on a regular basis. As a rule I try not to get carried away with the need to try every string new to the market – no matter how tempting. For the past five years or so I have settled with either Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Soloist, Larsen, or a combination of these. It so happened that the G from my most recent set of Pirazzis was not behaving very well – so much so I suspected I might have a seam crack. I took my cello (a Mittenwald instrument made C 1880, probably by Neuner and Hornsteiner) to my luthier for a check-up. The fingerboard needed shooting, but there were no cracks and the G string was still excessively volatile. We tried another Pirazzi and found it to be equally raspy; then tried an old Larsen and the buzz disappeared but the sound was rather dull compared with the brilliant, sparkling tone of the Pirazzi A, D and C strings.
For my session work I need a high performing set of strings with quick response and a big open sound right up to the highest register of each string. Normally the Pirazzi Soloist set delivers admirably on all fronts, but it seems the lower strings no longer suit my instrument. Whether it’s to do with slight changes they’ve made to the manufacturing process or a slight change in my instrument is anyone’s guess. I adore Larsen Soloist A and D, but find the G and C strings to be a little tame with a slower response than the Pirazzis. Enter the Magnacore G and C. Having read several user reviews, they certainly sounded like the strings to meet my requirements. Fingers firmly crossed as to whether they will agree with my cello.
As expected and in line with every user review I’ve read, the strings are extremely metallic and volatile. I expect they’ll need a good 2 – 3 days of playing in to find their true voice. Listening past the ‘new string sound’, I can tell they are magnificently colourful, and should project very nicely indeed once the initial ‘zing’ has worn off.
Still finding myself playing cautiously on the lower strings. After spending around 30 minutes playing exclusively on the G and C strings – scales and arpeggios with a variety of articulations, and exploiting the fullest possible range of each string – the metallic quality has diminished considerably and those wonderful colours I was looking forward to are really coming through. The strings still require frequent tuning, and the brashness hasn’t been tamed quite as much as I’d like.
The tuning is still a little unstable (significantly flatter than the upper strings), but after a good half-hour warm-up I am doing my first recording session with them. I’m very happy with the results, especially the dynamic range on the new strings. I think they could still do with a few more hours’ playing in to realise their full potential. I’m also not convinced that the Pirazzi A and D strings make the best combination. Tomorrow I will be replacing the existing Pirazzis with new ones to see whether the overall balance is better.
So it’s off with the 4 month old Pirazzi Soloist A and D, to be replaced with brand new ones. And what an incredible difference! My cello is now singing from top to bottom, and the strings compliment each other beautifully. After around 20 minutes playing in the Pirazzis I feel I have a robust, fully played in set with excellent projection, complex tonal qualities and a huge dynamic range. The Magnacore G and C are still a touch volatile, which I think has as much to do with my instrument as it does with the strings, but the G is much better balanced than the Pirazzi Soloist G was, and they lend themselves to just about any style and genre.
Overall, I love the Magnacores. As with all string manufacturers, Larsen had to decide whether to produce a string with no playing in time and a shorter playing life, or longer playing in time and a longer playing life. Thankfully they opted for the latter, and I certainly hope my strings last a good long while. Which brings me to my only gripe: the price. At a recommended retail price of £89.43 for the G string and £103.30 for the C string, they simply won’t be my regular lower string option – as much as I’d love them to be – unless the price comes by a good chunk. My rating: 4/5.
Here’s a recording I made with the Pirazzi/ Magnacore string combination on day 4:
Cello no longer for sale.
Reluctant sale of a beautiful cello!
I am selling a very good quality student cello on behalf of a former student who sadly no longer has time to play. It has no internal maker’s label, but has been described as an instrument of Eastern European origin (probably Romania or Hungary) by the luthier who set it up in 2009. Roughly 30 – 40 years old. Ideal for intermediate to advanced players and in good condition. The cello has sustained some damage to its neck in the past, and has a surface crack on its left shoulder, both of which have been well repaired and are reflected in the low price. The repairs were carried out before it was purchased in 2008, but were carefully reinforced when it was fully set up and repaired in 2009. Apart from this and a few minor scuffs around the edges to be expected in an instrument of this age, it is in excellent structural condition with no body or seam cracks. The full workshop setup included the following work:
- Fingerboard shot (i.e. reshaped to even out grooves caused by wear)
- New bridge (Aubert adjustable foot bridge)
- New soundpost
- Tuning pegs reamed (to fit snugly and turn more easily in their holes)
- Topnut reshaped (to improve the evenness of the string action and preserve the life of the strings)
- It has been set up with lower string action for very comfortable playing.
- I also fitted a brand new set of D’Addario Prelude strings on 10 March 2014.
Included in the sale is a nickel-mounted brazilwood bow (octagonal shape), which has a small chip at the tip but is otherwise in good condition, and a sturdy Hiscox Lifelite hard case which is in used, but good condition.
The cello was valued at £750 by the luthier who carried out the set-up.
Sale price: £550.
More details in the video, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post is a diversion from Bowing Technique 101, which will continue soon. I recently gave an introductory harmony lesson and thought I’d share it here. Although this does not relate specifically to cello playing, I have always found that an understanding of harmony and chords greatly enhances the study of any repertoire, especially when it comes to the interpretive stage of learning the music.
This lesson deals with the triads and seventh chords found in the key of C major. The chord labels (based on the baroque system of figured bass or Basso continuo) are relevant to the triads and seventh chords of all major keys, making it a wonderfully diverse system. As the building blocks of music harmony, chords are best studied in their simplest form in order to understand their use in music. So without further ado, I present to you An Introduction to Chords in Music!
A huge thank you to all my readers. Wishing you all an exciting and musical 2013!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 70,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.