Magazine article Strings

The Baroque Cello Revival: An Oral History

Magazine article Strings

The Baroque Cello Revival: An Oral History

Article excerpt

The Baroque Cello Revival: An Oral History, by Paul Laird. Scarecrow Press (, $55.

Paul Laird, a University of Kansas musicology professor and cellist, has long been fascinated by the early-music revival. When he heard that Yo-Yo Ma was experimenting with the Baroque cello, he became even more intrigued. "If a cellist as famous as Ma wished to play the instrument, then surely it had arrived at a significant point in its revival."

And so began this book, filled with indepth interviews with over 40 cellists and instrument makers.

Laird begins with a chapter entitled, "In Search of the Baroque Cello," a brief history of the evolution of the cello from the "bass violin," a large accompaniment instrument of the 16th century, to the smaller 18th-century cello intended for solo as well as continue playing. He talks about the complexity of defining the instrument and points to the variety of instruments still preserved in museums. Many early cellos have been cut down or otherwise "modernized" to keep them in the playing arena. Laird includes his weights and measurements of the "bewildering variety" of early bows housed at the Smithsonian Institute. He also interviews a number of modern luthiers to find out more about the Baroque cello-including how it differs from the modern cello.

The rest of The Baroque Cello Revival consists of lively interviews with performers, divided into three chapters: "The Soloists," "The Pioneers," and "The New Generations."

As a Baroque cellist, I have really enjoyed reading about my friends and colleagues-it feels a bit like I've been invited into their living rooms to chat about their obvious passion for playing in an historically informed way. …

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