It would be hard, I think, to find someone who doesn’t enjoy music. It does seem to be a universal human pastime. Tastes in music, of course, can vary widely, and people will often enjoy the sound of some instruments more than others. For me, it’s the cello.
Also known as the violoncello, it has four strings, usually tuned in perfect fifths, and it is played by bowing (like the violin) or occasionally plucking. It is more versatile than some might imagine, being played solo, in orchestra, in string quartets, or even rock bands, though it is most closely associated with European classical music. The cello first appeared in the early sixteenth century, though the Baroque-era cello and the modern cello have some differences in design. That’s the dry background information, anyway. Let’s talk about the music.
There are many solo pieces for cello, and you can find many examples on the internet. For example, Johann Sebastian Bach composed six cello suites, unaccompanied solo compositions, and they are some of the most famous cello pieces. I have added a link to a Youtube video of the famous cellist Yo Yo Ma playing the entire six suites at the BBC Proms in 2015. It is over two and a half hours of sublime music and well worth listening to. Benjamin Britten also composed three cello suites that can be found on Youtube, and are quite beautiful.
Cello music can also be found in modern bands. Two I am quite fond of are Cello Fury, an American band comprising three cellos and drums, and Two Cellos, a Croatian duo who perform many covers of popular rock music as well as classical. I have also included a link to 2 Cellos’ rendition of ‘Thunderstruck’. (As an added bonus, their performances are often entertaining and very funny, so I do recommend taking a look.)
The American composer Philip Glass often uses cello in his music. I would recommend his album ‘The Hours’ for good examples of this. I find much of his work hypnotic and mesmerizing, and the cello certainly contributes to this effect.
I find the cello very soothing. It’s like the sound strokes my nerves, calms and pacifies anxious feelings. Its range is actually very similar to the human voice, and many have speculated this is why it is so appealing to us. It is able to play very high notes and then sink to deep low notes. Some people say it’s a sad sound, but I don’t agree. I find it warm, rich, and beautifully mellow. I would almost say it is earthy, grounding. It reminds me of autumn, in a way (my favourite season), making me think of red and gold leaves, cool breezes, cosy fires and mugs of steaming cocoa. It’s comforting, and homey. It can also be wild and free. It’s a beautiful contradiction.
So, go and check out the links I have placed below, if you like, and see what you think. Long may the cello continue to delight us with its sublime music.
Note: I haven’t tried talking about music before in this blog, and I have found it harder than I expected to put why I like what I like into words. So, this is short and sweet. Maybe I’ll do better next time.
2 thoughts on “In praise of the Cello”
Thank you for the suggestions, as a massive cello fan I’m very familiar with Yo-Yo Ma and 2Cellos but have never come across Cello Fury, so will have to check them out. If you like modern cello music, you might appreciate Ian Maksin’s album Respiro, I can thoroughly recommend it.
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Sorry, I meant Sempre: A New Dimension
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