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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On kissing, washing and Tartini rosin,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Hi, Alice!!!!! (in case you're running low)

Great review of Renée Fleming's book. I once heard her in Strauss' Four Last Songs with the Cleveland Orchestra, and while I don't know more than a dozen words in German, the beauty of her voice and her expression had tears rolling down my face during the entire performance. It was magnificent!

Only two other singers have had that effect on me. Leontyne Price in Pace Pace, Mio Dio (again with Cleveland) and Jessye Norman in the Liebestod, with Cleveland. Oh, such glorious sounds!

Best regards,
Kelly in Cleveland (of course!)

Dear Kelly,

Thanks for this, and for the kind donation of exclamation points. I've plenty at present, but am always grateful for a few more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Your story reminded me of when I was first fortunate enough to hear Rostropovich, in his prime, lording it over the Dvorák cello concerto, with the National Symphony in DC, when I was 12 or 13. The sound in the second movement is quite simply the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard (this is still true, decades later) and reduced me to tears -- I think of joy -- I certainly don't recall anything other than purest ecstasy ... I had a large photo of Slava with me, and (in common with around a quarter of the audience) went backstage to see him. Upon hearing I was a beginning cellist, he smacked me wetly on both cheeks, called me 'anozzer fellow cellist!!!!!!!!!!!' and signed the photo, which still resides, framed, above my piano.

Legend has it that I wouldn't wash for a week ...


Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

Have you tried Tartini rosin?
I love it!

Yours sincerely,
Trudy G, cellist, Newcastle

Dear Trudy,

I have, and I think no modern home should be without it, in case the superglue fails. It is also efficacious for sticking on falling bits of plaster, re-wallpapering and the insides of cars. What I'm less convinced about is its use on cello bows, where it cakes up, esp on the upper strings, causing (for my cello, anyway) a coarsening of texture which I personally could live without.

So I went back to Salchow rosin, for whom/which I penned this eulogy, taking the liberty of assuming the last syllable rhymes with crow rather than ouch:

William Salchow, you're my pal-cho
It's thanks to you that I can down-bow
My up-bows too are far from gung-ho
without a splash of ruby Salchow

On the other hand, which of us hasn't occasionally had to borrow a double-bass player's death-defying style of rosin when attempting to get new bow-hair to feel less like a skating rink? Tartini cello rosin would be admirable for this purpose, not to mention during those weeks when your bow-hair has lost the will to live and you keep meaning to get that rehair but the time is just never quite right (though I am far too organised to ever let this happen to me personally, you understand ...)

(The snickering that you hear in the distance is from the superbly gifted Urich, of Malcolm Tysoe violins, who dyed and sold the last lot of ancient bow-hair I brought in to be replaced as 'super-silky, real-life, jet-black hair extensions' on ebay ...)


Copyright © 11 March 2005 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK

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