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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On cello strings and flaky painters,
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice

I would like to ask you about the best cello strings. I have used Jargar strings for the last two years but do not know what to buy. What are Evah Pirazzi and Larsen strings like?

Thanks, Ben

Dear Ben,

Jargar are good solid student strings, but either Larsen or Evah Pirazzi will give you much greater projection and tone. Teachers like Jargar (because they last forever, and are not too pricey), but you sound ready for something a bit more special.

Without going into boring detail about tungsten and gut and all the rest, what most cellists want is instant reaction times, evenness between the strings, a beautiful tone and a carrying quality. However, nobody can say, 'The best strings are A, B or C', because different cellos suit different strings (and players differ too about what constitutes 'beauty'!!!!) However, the two strings you're curious about are probably the two most popular brands among professionals, and with good reason. For years, every orchestra player seems to have gone for Larsen A and D along with Helicore G and C. However, now Larsen has got 'new' G and C strings, some people swear by them.

Evah Pirazzi has been coming up on the outside recently, and may even have overtaken Larsen in popularity. I've switched to Evah Pirazzi because I find the response quicker and the tone between D and G more even. They also suit me better because when adrenalin kicks in, so do I ... and the Evah Pirazzi will not let you do this, as the Larsens will. They somehow respond much better to more subtle uses of pressure, which is v good for my playing. SOOOOOOO: if you never play too aggressively and need more projection, try the Larsens. If you have bags of panache already, try the Evah Pirazzi. (And don't be too modest and avoid the 'soloist' strings in either brand: I do think they're better, and, if only soloists bought them they could never afford to make them!!!!)

As for the price, you can comfort yourself that these strings all last a long time. And they're still a lot cheaper than a new bow ...


Ask Alice

Dear Readers,

Those of you who have stuck manfully (and womanfully, of course) by this column since (God help us) April 2003 will know by now that you are privileged to have witnessed some strikingly wise and commanding pronouncements on a whole range of tricky subjects, mainly unmusical. And yet, if even Homer nods, what hope for a mad American cello-player?

This is exactly how wise I was last week.

A couple of guys, let's call them George and Mike, showed up at my house. Now George and Mike are not strangers. I know them as two rollicking types (George 50, Mike 30: George tea one sugar, Mike black coffee) who pop along twice a year and make me an offer I can't refuse (ie to clean out our gutters, by then unfailingly clogged with leaves etc from all our trees). The deal appears to be that Mike swarms up the ladders while George only tells bad jokes, but they split the proceeds fifty-fifty and ours is not to reason why, is it?

At any rate, good old George and Mike showed up and offered to do our gutters for 25 pounds, whereupon I started making tea and coffee and urged them to gutter as no men (or rather, man) had guttered before. As per usual, up swarmed Mike, while George told me the one about etc etc. And while we were thus passing the time of day, George gestured to the flaking paint over our eaves (we boast the only house on Oakwood Road with this particular design feature) and said they could fix that for us.

I told him that he had interested me strangely.
'Yes,' said good old George, 'You don't need new ones. All's you need is the old paint shaved off and sanded and a couple of coats and Bob's your uncle.'
We closed the deal at 100 pounds, and off they went, promising to be back the next afternoon.

Imagine how warmed the cockles of my heart were when they actually appeared in the morning.
'The honest British workman,' I thought to myself, 'is much maligned. Here they are, hours before I expected them, with a ladder and a heart for any fate.'
'We just have to get the materials and we can start,' said George (or was it Mike?).
'And how much will that set you back?' I asked.
'No more than 30 pounds,' they told me, 'We'll bring back the change.'
I unbelted the 30 pounds (leaving me completely free of cash, but all in a good cause).
Just then Simon came down the stairs.
'Who was that?' he asked.
'The gutterers. They just needed the money for the paint and stuff.'
'No, they didn't,' said Simon.
'You do not speak sooth, old for better or wiser,' I retorted, 'Because they're getting down to it early: this AM instead of this PM.'
Simon was a bit nettled.
'You misunderstand,' he said curtly, as if I was a junior lecturer who had blotted her copybook by being rude to the Vice-Chancellor. 'The reason they don't need money for the materials, Alice, is because I gave it to them yesterday.'

In other words, and threshing the thing out in all it's glory, good old George and Mike, having cleaned the gutters for 25 pounds, then swiped 30 pounds off Simon (and, not content with that, a further 30 pounds off of me) for, er, nothing, for we never saw them again.

So let this be a lesson to you all, to never listen to advice from a nitwit like yours, the undersigned, and, if you live in southeast London and are approached by two gutter experts answering the descriptions above, do me a favor. Stick lesser-known Asiatic poisons in their tea and coffee and kick them up the backsides!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yours, sadder but wiser,

Copyright © 29 September 2006 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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