Thursday, March 29, 2012

Without Trees There Is No Music: The Conservation of Pernambuco Wood

By Stefan Aune

Since the earliest European bow makers first sought to perfect the stringed-instrument bow, "pernambuco," or "Brazil wood," has reigned supreme as the material of choice. Sadly, the history of pernambuco is intimately tied to the processes of colonization and resource extraction that have had devastating consequences for the peoples and environments of North and South America. For a frame of reference on the history of pernambuco, check out a previous blog I wrote on the relationship between colonial resource extraction and the wood's rise to prominence in the hands of European bow-makers. Today pernambuco is endangered, and the continuing demand for wood bows is making the material increasingly difficult to acquire. Pernambuco's natural forest habitat is currently at about 10% of its pre-Columbian size, and pernambuco trees are notoriously fickle when grown in controlled, farm environments.

The harvest of pernambuco wood during the colonial period

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Antonio Stradivari's Cellos

By Andy Fein, Violin Maker & Owner, Fein Violins, Ltd.

If you have read some of my past blog posts, you probably realize I love Stradivarius violins. But it is Stradivarius' cellos that I am enamored with. I really love Stradivarius cellos. I really, really, love Stradivarius cellos.

The first Stradivarius cello I encountered is the one that has stuck in my memory for decades. The 'Braga' cello, made by Stradivarius in Cremona about 1731. The 'Braga' is currently played by the wonderful Korean cellist Myung-Wha Chung. It is one of the few cellos that was made on the smaller scale form that Stradivarius developed, the 'Forma B Piccola'. While I was in my apprenticeship in Chicago, Kenneth Warren, Sr. brought the 'Braga' cello to us to examine. I took the opportunity to spend an immense amount of time with it. OK, I fell in love with it!
Steven Isserlis and his Stradivarius cello

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Piatigorsky Cello Festival

By Andy Fein and Angie Newgren

Gregor Piatigorsky, affectionately known as "Grisha", was a giant of a man (about 6'5") and a giant of cellists in the mid twentieth century. With hands as large as his stature, he played his cello like it was a supple toy. And he made amazing music! Ivan Galamian once declared Piatigorsky "the greatest string player of all time!"

Piatigorsky playing the Chopin Sonata

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bonnaroo 2012 Stringed Musicians

By Stefan Aune and Angie Newgren

The 10th annual Bonnaroo music festival will be held this year from June 7-10 in Manchester, Tennessee. Bonnaroo is well known for its diverse lineups and arts and crafts atmosphere; in addition to the music there are usually artists selling handmade products along with movie screenings and live comedy. From Eminem to Neil Young, Bonnaroo has something for everyone, and it routinely features some of the best and; brightest of bluegrass, folk, and country-tinged rock. We wanted to feature a few of our favorite folk and bluegrass artists performing at Bonnaroo, many of whom include stringed instruments in their sound.

The Avett Brothers