I’m a sucker for cellos. I freely admit to this weakness. While all stringed instruments are completely magical – and I don’t claim to understand how anyone masters performance on a violin, viola or bass, for that matter – cellos for me belong in a different category. I’m informed that the cello has the same range as the human voice and that’s why the cello is so appealing. I’m not buying it. If I ever came across someone who sounded like a cello, I would never leave his or her side.
And even as I watch these words appear on my computer screen, I’m listening to a cello. Not just any cello this: it’s the cello that belonged to Pablo Casals, perhaps the greatest cellist ever. And it’s a repetition of Casals’ last concert. His cello is being beautifully played by a friend, Amit Peled, who has performed for the San Antonio Chamber Music Society in two memorable concerts. He now plays the Casals cello, loaned to him by Casals’ widow. This isn’t just a magnificent instrument, I do believe it has a soul, and I think Amit Peled is the luckiest cellist alive to be able to call forth the soul of this very special cello.
A cello is never shrill, it doesn’t scream “Listen to me, listen to me!” It’s sometimes content to just play accompaniment to its more feeble siblings, and without the cello, they would sound, well, thin.
So I’m wondering: what is it about a cello that appeals to me? I would walk across glass to hear a Yo-Yo Ma performance. Perhaps there are other “cello-philes” out there and they no doubt have their own reasons for loving cellos. But for me, a well-played cello can perform the music of a ho-hum composer and transform it into a masterpiece. A cello is never shrill, it doesn’t scream “Listen to me, listen to me!” It’s sometimes content to just play accompaniment to its more feeble siblings, and without the cello, they would sound, well, thin. But a cello in concert, all on its own, played by a master, can simply make me cry. As I listen to Casals’ cello and the artistry of Peled, I find myself thinking of things like the Sistine Chapel, fresh baked bread, a field of flowers, the perfection of a scarlet wine – I could go on, you know. But when I listen to the music of Fauré , for example, performed by a cello – this cello, especially — I listen. I am absolutely attuned (for want of a better word) to this swirling music that is so perfect for the instrument. I guess you could say that it strikes a chord. Or I guess it just makes me happy.
If you haven’t heard it yet, be sure to listen to Amit Peled’s “Casals Homage.” It will make you happy, too. And for even more happiness (does your cup runneth over?), remember to come hear the Aeolus Quartet next January 22. There will be a cello, of course!
– E Doyle