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The four strings of a cello are pitched at C, G, D, and A. Cello strings were traditionally made of gut, a cord made from fiber found within animal intestines. In Bologna, Italy in 1660, wire-wound strings were invented. These wire strings produced a deeper and richer base than the gut strings and led to the development of the cello. Today many cello strings have a gut core and then are wound with metallic materials. Synthetic strings are also in use though traditional baroque cellos maintain the stretchy, pure gut strings.
In a traditional orchestra, there are eight to twelve cello players. The principal cellist is the section leader and sits closest to the audience and plays the solo pieces for the cello. The cello is a part of the traditional string quartet along with two violins and a viola. Several pieces of music exist for three, four, or more cellos like Giaochino Rossini's, "William Tell Overture." The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra has a group of twelve cellists who are referred to as "The Twelve." These cellists perform a repertoire of pieces that are written for many cellos and also do arrangements of popular songs. "The Twelve' commissions pieces to be written for them and is playing a significant role in the expansion of music for the cello.
Famous classical compositions for the cello include Ludwig van Beethoven's, "Triple Concerto for Cello, Violin, & Piano in C Major." This is the only concerto that Beethoven wrote that has more than one solo instrument. Johannes Brahms wrote the, "Double Concerto in A Minor" for the cello and violin for the cellist Robert Hausmann. Brahms was nervous to write a concerto for instruments that he did not play and the piece did in fact meet with much criticism. Other memorable classical pieces for the cello include Ernest Bloch's, "Schelomo," and Max Bruch's, "Kol Nidrei."
The virtuoso cellist Msitslav Rostropovich did much for the popularization of the cello and the expansion of music written for the cello in the 20th century. He studied under the composer Sergei Prokofiev at the Moscow Conservatory and became a sort of muse of Prokofiev's who wrote his first composition for him when Rostropovich was only 22. Many other composers were compelled to write for Rostropovich and he premiered over 100 pieces for the cello in his lifetime. Benjamin Britten's three "Cello Suites" are dedicated to him he has been referred to as, "probably the greatest cellist of all time," by the famous cellist Julian Lloyd Webber.
Contemporary cellists include Webber, Yo-Yo Ma, and the young Alisa Weilerstein. Weilerstein made her performance debut with the Cleveland Orchestra at age thirteen with Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky's "Variations on a Rococo Theme." Since then, Weilerstein has established herself as a prominent cellist and a champion of contemporary music. She has collaborated with composers like Osvaldo Golija, Lera Auerbach, and Joseph Hallman. In 2011, she became a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation's Genius Grant.
If you are on your way to becoming the next Msitslav Rostropovich or Alisa Weilerstein, ensure that you have the best strings for your instrument available from The Woodwind & Brasswind.
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