Concerts, News

Two Recitals and a Competition

Hello Readers!

I do apologise, I left this a bit late… however, here it is: an account of the week.

The first recital was a learning curve. Yes – I do suppose you know what those italics mean. I had nerves, so decided to ensure that I really was familiar with the piano part. I listened and played along with the CD. Now, at the time, this seemed like a rather sensible thing to do, yet the recording is unfathomably fast for the character and style of Latin For Alex…

I was on stage. Joy, the pianist, began to play. I stopped her. It was the tempo we had agreed on in the previous rehearsal, yet still so much slower than in the recording I had been listening to the previous hour. It unnerved me. I adjusted the speed. And. We. Were. Off! As fast as I could go! A stunning performance, technique-wise, yet a drab, unfeeling performance expressive-wise. I am very glad to say that my uninformed and mislead ideas regarding the tempo were doctored later that evening – with yet another rehearsal.

These were paid off the next night at the second recital (a surprise invitation from my old cello teacher – so kind). “She played like an angel!” She sighed to my father… yet not like an angel enough, according to Mr. Adjudicator the next day; but now I’m getting ahead of myself!

To follow on from the previous, evidently rather put-out last statement: despite my great leap in playing and musical high I was on the previous evening, the results of the competition did not reflect my own opinions and evaluation of my playing that day, nor did it mirror my parents’ ideas. I personally felt that the adjudicator’s (a concert pianist) speech contradicted a few the top three performers in each age group of the string category… yet that is just me, and half of my mind is telling me that this is no way to speak. So, I have spent the past few evenings emotionally trialed and have only recently spoken the conclusion that was, actually, in my head all along: not everyone totally agrees with the judge, for we all have different opinions; different marking criteria. Pooh. Harrumph. At least I got something… and a relatively good mark. Pah.

Well, that was an obsessively chatty entry… shall write again anon.

– Phoebe P

Concerts, News

First Cello Recital of the Year

Hello readers!

Tomorrow, I shall be playing in a cello recital. Just a small one, with a group of other young cellists who, like me, shall be performing in the South Auckland Competitions sometime this week (I’m playing on the 20th – shall keep you updated!).

As the concert is for performance practice in preparation for the competition, we’ll be playing the same piece that we shall be performing for the adjudicators later on. In my case, Latin For Alex (also known as Alexander’s Latin) by Walter Haberl; a snazzy piece, one with a vast amount of character! I’ll be playing it by memory… something of which I was initially apprehensive to do as the piece is full of little alterations and variations in the main, reoccurring theme. I was fretting that I’d learn it incorrectly if I were not to look at the music! Much to my great surprise and favour, I picked up on every single little tiny mistake I made and fixed it the first few times I practiced it by memory! This really delighted me.

In the recital tomorrow, I’ll be playing with the same pianist who has helped and accompanied me these past, perhaps, two years. She is a marvelous musician (and person) and, although I have only had one half-hour rehearsal with her, I feel well prepared. As my piece, Latin For Alex, is in list C of the Grade 7 ABRSM syllabus, I have been using the piano accompaniment from the CD in my practice. This has been an immense help as it meant that I didn’t need to dally about, learning how my part fitted with the piano, but spent my half-hour effectively, by “getting into the groove” of the music.

I shall keep you all posted!

– Phoebe P


NZSO – Elgar and Strauss

Last night, I accompanied my mother back to the town hall where, after a superb meal in Elliot Stables (a must for all!), we went to the NZSO.

The programme began with Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave); most certainly a well known, well loved piece and composer. The orchestra was superb. Everything that I have been taught over my years was demonstrated faultlessly: from melding the sound to particular techniques for the cello regarding the placement, speed and pressure of the bow.  For me, this was a wonderful confirmation and has assured me further in my playing.

We then had Elgar’s Sea Pictures, a series of poems that he put to music, with a mezzo-soprano solo. These aren’t commonly known and are often disregard, perhaps because they were composed between his Enigma Variations and The Dream if Gerontius, but more so because many say they are absent of a particular, refined care or rigour. I found it evident that the orchestra’s favourite of the five pieces was In Haven. Everyone was smiling, and though discrete, it seemed to resemble how I feel when I have a piece of music, or a book, of which I have great intimacy with! The poem, or lyrics as Elgar made them, were composed by Elgar’s wife, Caroline; I suppose this also helped make the piece a favourite of the members – simply because it’s a very sweet token of love… then again, “between his Enigma Variations and The Dream if Gerontius”  who knows what intentions there were behind it? (Yes, I am referring to the initials that title each movement of the variations).

Lastly, after a shared orange juice over the interval, were Strauss’ twenty-two continuous movements that make up his Eine Alpensinfonie (or An Alpine Symphony). I found these very modern – certainly no familiar homophonic passages in this! Completed in 1915, just at the beginning of the Great War, it is easy to find certain parts and ideas of which would have been shaped quite significantly by what was going on around him.  The piece calls for an orchestra of at least 140 musicians and a particularly lavish percussion section. It was terribly exciting and demanding.

Overall, a glorious night, full of discovery.

-Phoebe P



A few days ago, I went to the Auckland town hall to see L’Apeggiata as part of the Auckland Arts Festival 2017. L’Apeggiata is a Baroque chamber group, with lots of improvisation and melding of Baroque music with other periods and styles, most commonly Jazz.

It was quite an exciting night. I recognised perhaps 60% of the pieces they performed (Baroque is the period of music I listen to most frequently) though I found it difficult to come to terms with the modernisation as I am more of a traditionalist when it comes to music. I adored the Cornetto and wished to hear more of the violin! It really was a concert to entertain.

-Phoebe P


First Mendelssohn Trio Rehearsal

Oh! How exciting! I have been waiting with great anticipation and excitement for this trio practice! And it was fun!

Already I have noticed that there is such a contrast between the two piano trios that I am playing with. With the Mendelssohn,  the tempo is presently everywhere and, as the music is still quite new to us, there are passages that seem to loose the sense of direction, of the beat. Our strengths and weaknesses are so different in the Dumky Trio, though it is all so new I can scarcely pin-point specifics. I promise to keep you all updated.

-Phoebe P


AYS Weekend Camp

Hello followers of The Young Person’s Guide to the Cello!

Firstly, I apologise for the infrequent bursts of posts; life seems to be a contrary ado, though still fun.

As in the title, I’d like to discuss the AYS camp of which took place, well, last weekend! I thoroughly enjoyed the intensive practice of the few days. Breaks were brief, yet it was wonderful conversing with the other members and really, finally, fitting in.

The music improved significantly over the course of the weekend, especially when we were presented with little tasks and techniques to make us work together – to listen. This resulted in immediate progress. I have been able to apply these principles of melding the sound, listening, leading etc. that I practiced in the orchestra to other areas of my musical life too, such as in the school orchestras. This has been really handy in helping me to see what I need to work on and just being a better, and importantly, assertive musician.

The solos! Sight-reading the Swan from The Carnival of the Animals was good only to get a general feel for the piece. I immediately came home and employed my father to help me with it; mainly the quality and concentration of sound. It’s a piece that cannot be left limp and soggy – to be played once each week in the actual orchestra rehearsal (as many do, including I, for simple pieces!)

Overall, a wonderful weekend with wonderful people, spent singing songs from The Sound of Music at twelve o’clock at night, discussing ridiculous yet marvelous pieces of music with friends and, of course, playing my cello.

-Phoebe P

News, Practices

Second Lesson of the Year

Well, hello followers of The Young Person’s Guide to the Cello! I have just had my second cello lesson of the year and would just love to share what I’ve been working on over the past couple of weeks.

I am currently working towards my Grade 7 ABRSM (Royal Schools) so I have learned the two Bourees of the Third Bach Suite, have just begun Largo by Veracini and am now working on Latin For Alex, which I intend to perform in an upcoming competition. I find that I am mostly practicing the clarity of the grace notes as well as rests. I practice this piece continuously with a metronome to work on timing as it’s one of those pieces that is incredibly dependent on precise timing – especially when it comes to playing with the piano! Openness of sound in the treble clef passages is another focus.

I am also working on Sevcik no. 13 (of which I use to practice sound quality and decisive shifting), scales, Piatti and shall begin further finger exercises and thumb position studies shortly.

I practice every day for 1-2 hours and I adore rehearsing my pieces and trio music. Shifting practice and serial control are both in frequent techniques and, being so tediously repetitive, I feel very sorry for those who have to listen in!

– Phoebe P