Almost two years ago, I posted an article about the piano exercises of Ernő Dohnányi in which I quoted Dohnányi’s thoughts on the exercises of other composers. Here is another discussion on the same topic.
I first became aware of 2Cellos when a Facebook friend posted this video:
Notice the guys’ raggedy bows, with the horsehair hanging down? Before this video, I’d never seen that before. No self-respecting cellist would perform with his bow in that condition.
Now it’s a trend.
I had the good fortune of sitting in a front row seat when they performed at a local venue a few years ago. They played so fast and so hard that I could literally smell the horsehair on their bows burning. I understand how their bows got that way.
The duo is made up of Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser. Hauser, born in Pula, Croatia, and Šulić, born in Maribor, Slovenia, are classically trained musicians. They met while still in their teens. Šulić attended the Academy of Music in Zagreb, and then studied in Vienna. He later entered London’s Royal Academy of Music. Hauser attended the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, after completing his studies at Trinity Laban in London. Before they became partners, the two cellists were sometimes rivals, competing against each other in music contests.
Despite their musical success in the United Kingdom, Hauser and Šulić struggled financially until a friend suggested making the music video cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” The duo rose to fame in 2011 after their video became a hit on YouTube, receiving over three million views in the first two weeks.
After Elton John watched the “Smooth Criminal” video online, he personally called Šulić and invited the duo to appear with him on his thirty-one city 2011 summer tour.
2Cellos has recorded four albums with Sony Masterworks.
Though their video covers of pop music have made them famous, they both still perform classically, soloing with major symphony orchestras around the world.
Itzhak Perlman was born in 1945 in Israel. He began playing on a toy violin at age three until he was old enough to play on a real violin. His family emigrated to the United States in 1958, and at age 13 he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, launching his professional career. I remember seeing that broadcast and my mother commenting on his skill and his young age at the time. This might have been that actual performance; if not, it’s from the same time period:
Perlman contracted polio at age four. When he first started performing, much was made of the poor kid with the crutches, and people speculated that his career would be short because of his disability. He proved the naysayers wrong by becoming one of the most popular violinists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, playing as a solo recitalist and symphonic soloist with a varied repertoire, performing with the finest orchestras all over the world, and also on television (such as The Late Show with David Letterman, Sesame Street, The Tonight Show, the Grammy Awards telecasts, and numerous Live From Lincoln Center Broadcasts) and in movies. He also advocates for the disabled.
One of his most famous performances was on the soundtrack of Schindler’s List, playing the gorgeous music of John Williams’ score.
In January 2009, Perlman participated in the Inauguration of President Barack Obama, premiering a piece written for the occasion by John Williams and performing with clarinetist Anthony McGill, pianist Gabriela Montero, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. In December 2003 the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts granted Mr. Perlman a Kennedy Center Honor celebrating his distinguished achievements and contributions to the cultural and educational life of our nation. In May 2007, he performed at the State Dinner for Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, hosted by President George W. Bush and Mrs. Bush at the White House.
In February 2008, Itzhak Perlman was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in the recording arts. His recordings regularly appear on the best-seller charts and have earned him fifteen Grammy Awards.
Click here to view a video of Perlman conducting and playing the solo in “Spring” from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.
Perlman performed John Williams’ Air and Simple Gifts at the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama along with Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Gabriela Montero (piano), and Anthony McGill (clarinet). (While the quartet did play live, the music played simultaneously over speakers and on television was a recording made earlier due to concerns that the cold weather might damage the instruments.)
The Perlman music program, founded in 1995 by Itzhak’s wife, Toby Perlman, and Suki Sandler, started as a summer camp for exceptional string musicians between the ages of 11 and 18. Over time, it expanded to a year-long program. Itzhak Perlman and other string teachers coach the students before they perform at venues such as the Sutton Place Synagogue and public schools. The program strives to have musicians who would otherwise practice alone develop a network of friends and colleagues.
Itzhak Perlman is also known for his delightful sense of humor. Here is a portion of a performance with the Boston Pops, John Williams, and Peter Schickele.
At least three documentaries have been made of Perlman’s life. Below is the trailer for the most recent one.
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Do you have something to add about Itzhak Perlman? Have you seen him perform in person? (I did, a few years ago.) Share in the comments below.
I love music playing in the background while I work, but not just any music. It has to be music I love, but not music that distracts. I could say it has to be instrumental, but that’s not true—I write and draw to songs just as well. The music doesn’t have to invoke any special mood, though I prefer mysterious melodies.
I used to input all my CDs into my iTunes, and just play music from my computer, but years ago when I switched computers, I lost all my non-Apple purchases, and I just couldn’t face downloading them again. I’ve made Genius playlists which work for me for a while, but eventually, I get tired of them.
I have a CD player in my study, and for years I put in a CD when I sat down to write. But there are problems with that strategy. There are always a few cuts I’m tired of, or which never appealed to me, or which disrupt my attention, and I have to stop working to click past them. Or the CD stops and I don’t notice because I’m so absorbed with my work. Often I listened to the same CD over and over because I didn’t want to take the time to put in a different CD.
I don’t subscribe to a music streaming site, which would probably be the ideal solution for people who want unlimited beautiful music to create to. I do have Amazon Prime, so I often listen to music I like there, or to their pre-compiled playlists. Their playlists have the disadvantage of including pieces I don’t care for. You can make your own playlist on Amazon Prime, which I haven’t done yet, but plan to do.
Instead, I made my own playlist on YouTube, which has its own advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, I can share it. If you’d like to listen to it, it’s located here. (You can also subscribe to my channel. I plan to add creativity-related content eventually.) The main disadvantage is unless you pay a monthly fee (which I don’t), you have to deal with ads every video or two. You can skip most of them after five seconds, but that means you have to stop what you’re doing, go to your YouTube window, and click the little rectangle. The ads also disrupt your concentration. One other feature, which could be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on your point of view, is that you can add and delete videos from the playlist, which I intend to do as I tire of some and come across others.
YouTube Music also has a new player which I have not yet fully explored, but it looks like it could be a good thing.
Do you like to play music while you work? What sort of background music do you prefer? (I have eclectic taste in music, from classical to bluegrass to Balkan to pop.) Have you made your own playlists? Share in the comments below.
Beauty to inspire your own creations:
- Read what Reece Witherspoon is reading.
- Origami like you’ve never seen it before.
- Traveling in Segovia, Spain.
- My favorite spot on earth—The Cloisters.
- What to see at Yosemite.
- Watercolor basics and special effects.
- The power of music.
- Quilt eye candy.
- Pretty soon we’ll be remodeling our kitchen, so I was tickled to see Suhita Shirodkar’s sketches of the demolition of her kitchen.
- What is the essential requirement of creation?
- Who determines the value of art?
- Breathtaking sculpture.
… But not the way you are used to hearing it. Valentina Lisitsa plays a piano arrangement. Gorgeous! (No cannons were used in this video, but you will hear explosions if you commit to watching to the end.)