11 May 2011

A concert and a luthier...

May 10, 2011...  The concert last night at Parco della Musica was excellent. I found the room muffled the music a bit, but I had an exemplary seat – 14 rows back and squarely facing cellist Gautier Capucon... he was a bit over-theatrical – reaching out with his bow arm as if gathering a swirl of notes to him before starting to play. He kept lifting his off (left) foot from the floor. He endeared himself to me when he turned his head toward the first cellist behind him when the music called for their duet. Capucon played the Schumann Concerto; the orchestra (Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia) played a Schumann Overture, Scherzo and Finale, and after intermission the Brahms #1.

There were several unusual things about this concert. For one, the entire orchestra was off-stage until the appointed time for the concert to begin. I checked my ticket – was I in the correct hall at the right time? Then at precisely 7:30 they walked in and took their places... For another, they sat so that from my seat the first violins were stage left, the seconds stage right, with the violas behind them, and the cellos facing the audience from their seats directly in front of Conductor Semyon Bychkov. The basses (three for the Schumann, six for the Brahms) were located at the rear, left; brass to the rear right, and in between horns and winds. Dead center in the rear was the single percussionist who made up in volume and energy what several assistants might otherwise have added.

May 11, 2011... There is a coda to this... on my way home from school this afternoon I took another street on pretty much of a whim, thinking to find again the old man in the old shop who had sold me two perfect pens (and in this school, with answers to exercises necessarily written into tiny spaces, good pens are crucial). I have not found him yet (was he only a dream? No, I have two good pens and a pad of paper – where else could I have purchased them here?) but stumbled almost immediately into what clear was a violin shop.

It turned out to be the atelier of Claude Lebet (“Maestro Liutaio” or master luthier) who was out at the moment, but one of his several assistants undertook to answer my question – did they know the old man in the old shop? No, but since you play violoncello, would you care to try this one?

What a gift from heaven. I put down my school bag, picked up the cello and – it was really excellent – very loud and clear, from the lowest to the highest notes. Turns out it’s an exact copy of the original (insert maker here – I forget) cello now owned by last night’s performer, Gautier Capucon.

It wasn’t as good as his, being a month old, not centuries, but it played like a dream. If it turns out, I should have photos of another assistant playing it for me (so I could stand back and listen) and me playing, too.

The maestro arrived, I was introduced, and he went to work and ignored me. His work these days apparently is not wield knife and chisel, but to stare into the desktop computer of yet another assistant, and discuss web things. You can find him here...

Meanwhile, I was trying to remember the maker of my cello (Carletti natale 1941) and failing. I did discover that this shop will rent me a cello – a good cello but not like the one I tried – for 100E for a full month, case, bow included. A very very good deal, but one I probably won’t take him up on because I probably only have one or more playing sessions here in Rome, and I wouldn’t be playing it here in this apartment – no aural privacy, no music.

The maestro has published an authoritative and highly illustrated book on the instrument makers of Rome. As I left, the assistant offered me a gift – a peg holder made of leather with a tiny metal cup to catch the sharp point of the cello stick.

I was very impressed with the entire experience. It was a great pleasure to play, regardless of instrument. By the way, the one I tried would sell for approximately 22,000E.

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