Cello | The Canadian Encyclopedia



Cello. The bass of the violin family ('basso di violino') was made in the early 1600s, but it was not until the 18th century that it was recognized as a potential solo instrument, ideal string quartet bass, and orchestral instrument.


Cello. The bass of the violin family ('basso di violino') was made in the early 1600s, but it was not until the 18th century that it was recognized as a potential solo instrument, ideal string quartet bass, and orchestral instrument. By the late 18th century, the growing popularity of string quartets and quintets by composers such as Boccherini, Haydn, Mozart, and Pleyel created a demand for cellists. George Gibsone, Narcisse Hamel, J. Harvicker, and Adam Schott were worthy cellists active in Canada from the late 18th to the mid-19th centuries. Two professionally trained French cellists arrived in Canada mid-century - Antoine Dessane in 1848 in Quebec City and Paul Letondal in 1852 in Montreal. At a recital in 1854 Letondal performed works by the cello virtuoso Auguste Franchomme, as well as a fantasy of his own composition.

Other French cellists who visited Canada during the 19th century were Henri Billet (in 1842, billed as 'premier violoncelle de la musique privée de l'Empereur de Russie') and Léon Jacquard, who lived a few years in Montreal in the early 1870s. Jean-Baptiste Dubois arrived from Belgium in 1891, settled in Montreal, and propagated the traditions of the Franco-Belgian school. Dubois's pupils included Rosario Bourdon, Suzette Forgues, Gustave Labelle, Roland Leduc, Brahm Sand, and Dubois's son Jules. A Montreal-born pioneer of the instrument was Louis Charbonneau, a pupil of Alwin Schroeder of Boston and the teacher of Rodolphe Plamondon and of Charbonneau's son Maurice. Plamondon's son Lucien also became a noted cellist. Labelle's pupils included Gabriel Cusson, Raoul Duquette, and Yvette Lamontagne. The German cellist Ernst Doering taught in Halifax in the 1890s and was a member of the Leipzig Trio with Charles Porter and Heinrich Klingenfeld.

Active in Toronto during the 19th century were John Ellis (ca 1840s), a keen amateur, and Giuseppe Dinelli, a London-born teacher (fl 1897). In the early part of the 20th century several cellists who made significant contributions as teachers and performers arrived in Canada. The Hungarian cellist Dezsö Mahalek, a pupil of David Popper and Julius Klengel, settled in Winnipeg ca 1912 and moved to Vancouver in 1936. His Canadian pupils included Isaac Mamott, Lorne Munroe, Zara Nelsova, and Malcolm Tait. George Bruce, Paul Hahn, Boris Hambourg (a pupil of Hugo Becker), and Leo Smith (a pupil of Carl Fuchs) all lived in Toronto in the early 1920s, and the English cellist Lionel Bilton (a pupil of Popper) appeared with Jack Arthur's orchestra. Bruno Schmitt and Janet Palmer taught cello in Saskatoon in the 1920s. In 1926 the French cellist Jean Belland (a pupil of Louis R. Feuillard) arrived in Montreal, where he had an active career as both soloist and teacher. Cornelius Ysselstyn (b The Hague 9 Dec 1904, d Toronto 3 Apr 1979) arrived in Toronto in 1936. A member of the Dembeck and Parlow quartets and, for some years, of the TSO and CBC Symphony Orchestra, he also taught at the RCMT, where his pupils included Donald Whitton and Michael Kilburn.

Herbert Coulson, an Englishman who pioneered as a farmer near Dauphin, Man, in the early years of the 20th century, played in string quartets and had a good library. However, as a rule, the cello has been an 'urban' instrument, which has flourished as symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles grow and as conservatories offer instruction. As the 20th century progressed, talented players and teachers could be found in many centres. Those born abroad include Marcus Adeney, Isaac Mamott, Vladimir Orloff, and Philip Spivak in Toronto, James Hunter in Victoria, Walter Joachim in Montreal, Claude Kenneson in Winnipeg and Edmonton, Peggie Sampson in Winnipeg, Ernst Friedlander in Vancouver, and Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi (a Starker pupil) in London, Ont, and at Banff, Alta.

Canadian cellists who have pursued major careers are Rosario Bourdon, Lorne Munroe, Zara Nelsova, and Daniel Saidenberg. Other cellists and teachers active during the 20th century include Dorothy Bégin (CMM and MSO), Klara Benjamin Belkin (former principal of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra), Edward Bisha, Lotte and Denis Brott, Marthe Delcellier, Gisela Depkat, Daniel Domb (principal of the TS), Anthony Elliott (former principal of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra), Mary Evens, Guy Fouquet (principal of the MSO), Hélène Gagné, Ian Hampton, Talmon Hertz (Hertz Trio, Calgary), Ronald Laurie (TS), Pierre and Huguette Morin, Rowland Pack, Audrey Piggott, Marcel Saint-Cyr, Joyce Sands, Peter Schenkman (b New York City 6 Dec 1937, d Toronto 22 Feb 2006, principal of the TS 1967-74), Malcolm Tait, Kurt Trachsel (former principal with both the Calgary and Edmonton orchestras), Yuli Turovsky, Donald Whitton (former principal, NACO), Ifan Williams, and Eric Wilson.

During the 1980s many young Canadian cellists have become prominent. Four who have pursued outstanding careers are Ofra Harnoy, Desmond Hoebig, Sophie Rolland, and Shauna Rolston. Others include Richard Armin, Linda Bardutz, Charles Bernard, Sarah Bielish, Roman Borys (Trio Lyrica), Elizabeth Dolin (Samuel Dolin's daughter), Mark Eeles, Joseph Elworthy, William Findlay, Amanda Forsyth (Malcolm Forsyth's daughter), John Friesen, Marie Gélinas, Rolf Gilstein, David Hetherington, John Helmers, Marina Hoover, Janet Horvath, Roberta Janzen, Claude Lamothe, Alastair Money, Shaun Pomer, Paul Pulford, Gary Russell, Colin Ryan, Mihai Tetel, William Valleau, and Andras Weber.

In some centres the Suzuki method (introduced to Canada at Edmonton in 1966) has lowered the starting age for cello students, but such methods have not had wide acceptance among cello teachers, who tend, on the whole, to be empirical individualists. Marcus Adeney's book, Tomorrow's Cellist, is a treatise on the history of cello methods and the philosophies which motivate them. The Vancouver Cello Club has helped to focus interest in all matters pertaining to the cello, its literature, and its performance. The Canadian String Teachers Association has published articles and information for teachers in its newsletter, Notes.

Compositions of every type have been written for the cello by Canadian composers, including Allik, Archer, Arseneault, Baker, Barnes, Bell, Betts, Bourdon, Brady, Brott, Buczynski, Cardy, Cherney, Contant, Coulthard, Richard Deegan, Dolin, Duke, Dusatko, Eckhardt-Grammaté, Eggleston, Fiala, Fisher, Fodi, Garant, Gellman, Glick, Grant, Hétu, Hiscott, Holt, Michael Horwood, Jaeger, Jarvlepp, Otto Joachim, Kenins, Klein, Kulesha, Lavallée, R. Mathieu, Mather, L. Melnyk, Miro, Morawetz, O'Brien, Pentland, Piché, Prévost, Rosen, Saint-Marcoux, Steven, Surdin, Keith Tedman, Ronald Tremain, Truax, Vivier, Walter, Ware, Sasha Weinstangel, Weinzweig, Weisgarber, and Zuckert.

See also Period instrument movement

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