The Luis and Clark carbon fiber cello I used for the Shostakovich concerto is fabulous: a big, clear, loud sound that carries well in a hall. A student in one of my classes yesterday asked me, “do you like the tone of the carbon fiber cello better than a wood cello?”
Well, no. I love the Luis and Clark for what it is–a different cello, with a different sound. It has a lot of similarities to a wood cello, and is more powerful than any wood cello I’ve compared it with. But it is not a wood cello and doesn’t sound exactly like one and that’s fine. It’s a great, truly amazing, new instrument.
One of my students has been in the process of buying a new cello. He’s finally settled on a brand-new wood cello by the Chicago maker Gary Garavaglia. Both of us fell in love with it. As a matter of fact, I almost used it for the Shostakovich concerto, because I’m just nuts for it. But all my students listened to the two side by side in a hall and the unanimous verdict was that the Luis and Clark projected better.
The Garavaglia has a rich, deep, sound that’s somehow both mellow and powerful. I’ve played a number of Garavaglias over the years. I’ve always admired them. But this is the first that I’ve been truly infatuated with. I played it on a chamber music concert last night and everyone loved it.
It’s as if the instrument has a soul. I rarely feel that with an instrument. And it brought out new things in my playing.
So I’m delighted my student is getting it. He sounds great on it. When I heard him play it, I had that sense that they belonged together. I didn’t feel that with any of the other cellos he tried. Not that some of them weren’t just as “good.” But it’s as much about chemistry as quality.
In Casablanca, Paul Henried points out to Humphrey Bogart that the two of them are in love with the same woman. (Ingrid Bergman–who wouldn’t be in love with her?) In the end, Bogie insists that Bergman go off with Henried as he works to save the world. And so I, despite falling in love with this cello, must relinquish it to my student, letting the instrument empower him to be the wonderful cellist he is on the path to becoming.
The Garavaglia and I will always have, if not Paris, Monday’s chamber music concert. And it didn’t leave me on a train in the rain.
Here’s looking at you, kid.