Joseph Mendoes - cello expert

How to play Kol Nidrei by Max Bruch on the cello

A unique approach to the famous cello composition by Max Bruch

In this video, Joseph tackles Kol Nidrei by Max Bruch, by talking about 3 basic concepts to improve your performance of this beautiful piece of music. If you haven't downloaded Joseph's edition yet, here is the link: Enjoy!

Released on September 3, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hello. This is Joseph Mendoes with another video for Today, I have kind of a special video. The main topic of this video is going to be, actually, two different things and they relate directly to the piece Kol Nidrei by Max Bruch, which I've recently edited in a new version for that you can download off the website. I'm going to talk about two main things. I hope to, also at some point later, not in this video but in a later video actually, put together a whole performance of this for you with piano and everything like that. But today, I'm just going to talk about two things that I think are very important to develop in your technique in order to play this piece well. The first one is expressive shifting. Now, in my shifting video, I focused primarily on hinge shifts, you know, the ability to get from one point to another and make it sound like you're not shifting at all, you know, to really hide any sort of sound of the shift. Now, in expressive shifting, you want to do quite the opposite.

You really want to control the shift as much as you can so that the audience hears a little bit of slide or a little bit of something, but in a very expressive, very vocal way. In the very beginning of the Kol Nidrei, in my edition, I started on the D string and I do so to kind of get a certain expressive effect. And here, you hear a downward slide and then here, an upward slide. Now, I'd like to talk about those two slides right there. First of all, the downward slide here, how I'm achieving this is the first thing I have to do is I have to kind of lean back on this finger, on the second finger, you can kind of see me do that and slowly kind of mesh the first finger down. Now, I'm going to do most of my sliding on that first finger. If I do too much of it on the second finger, I end up with a totally different kind of slide, so you have to be able to master both. Now, this first one that I'm talking about is what's called, at least I like to call it, a new finger shift or a new finger slide where the new finger, which is the first finger, the one that we're going to, is the one that's doing most of the sliding.

So you'll see that I'm sliding primarily on that finger. If I wanted to do an old finger, which is the second one I demonstrated, then you see I slide primarily more on the second finger and I only bring the first finger down when it needs to go down. Like that. So it's either [plays a sound] or [plays a sound]. Now, I think the one that sounds more vocal definitely is the new finger. I think I mentioned that in my shifting video, too. Anyway, here it is. Now, it's the same way one the way up, you'll hear it. I use another new finger shift. Now, how I do this is I make sure that as I start to move, you see I lean. I always lean back if I'm shifting back. I always lean forward if I'm shifting forward. And as I lean forward, I start to kind of mesh again that second finger in and then I just kind of open up the hand. Now, of course, to do all this well, all of the fundamentals have to be in place, but most importantly, that thumb. The other thing is the elbow. If the elbow is too low, it's going to impede the motion of the shift. This part of the cello is going to get too much in your way.

So if you're down here, it's going to be too difficult. You need to be more up here. Now, there's a lot of other places in this piece where I use those kinds of shifts. Now, I didn't mark them that way in the edition because I want all of you who are playing this piece to really think about those issues on your own, where you want to put those slides. I tend to use quite a bit in this piece because I think it fits the style and also, if you've ever heard a Cantor at a Jewish Temple sing, they usually sing with a lot very wonderful, graceful slides. So since this piece is kind of in that vein, I think we should play also in that style. So the second thing I want to talk about, so we talked about the expressive shifting, the second thing, is actually changing the speed of your vibrato during a note. Now, there's many places in this where this is absolutely necessary. If you don't change the speed of the vibrato during the note, the note just kind of sits there and is kind of dead. For example, a little bit later on in the piece, we have this note, this A, this is in measure 21, if you have a copy of this.

I have to do something to that note, or that note's going to be very boring. If I just let it sit, sure it's kind of a nice sounding note, but it doesn't go anywhere, it doesn't do anything. It's kind of purposeless. It's the equivalent of if a note were to sit on the couch with a big bag of Doritos and you know, something like that. We don't want notes like that, that are just kind of lethargic and don't do anything. That's kind of boring, so we want to do something to it and we do that, well, also by changing the speed of the bow as well, but primarily, with the vibrato. So I'm going to start. You'll notice I start the note with a little less vibrato and then I increase the speed and the width as I go. Even here, and here, you'll notice I calm the vibrato down until there's no vibrato. So you always have to be changing those things on every long note. So later in the piece, we have this beautiful melody. You can't just let it sit, or it's kind of boring. I'm kind of bored playing it, you know? So you have to change the speed of the vibrato in the riff as you play and [inaudible 00:07:45] [playing the cello].

So you always have to be doing different things on every single note, so the notes never just sit. That's the worst possible thing. Please keep those things in mind as you're going through this piece, or really any piece where you're playing a long melody. You never want notes to just kind of sit there. You always want them to have direction and one of the ways you can do that is by changing the speed of the vibrato during the note. So that's an important technique to have. Also, the expressive shifting. You know, I think of somebody like Lynn Harrell who slides quite a bit. Maybe, I wouldn't like to slide as much as him, but certainly, we should be able to, you know? I think we should have enough technique so that the things that we really like about other players, whoever they are, are things that we can, you know, at least have a chance at duplicating and I think that's really the point of technique, is for us to be as expressive as possible. So I hope this video has been interesting and helpful to you and there'll be more videos about this Kol Nidrei in the future.

Hopefully, one where I perform it with a pianist, I just have to convince a pianist to come do it with me. So once again, this is Joseph Mendoes for Please leave plenty of comments down below there and also consider purchasing this edition. I think you'll find it pretty interesting and valuable. Thank you.
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User Comments and Questions

Comments, Questions, Requests:

Portia on March 7, 2017 @7:28 am PST
Do you think the shifting technique applies to viola too? Or are the mechanics of playing cello too different?
Joseph - host, on March 19, 2017 @9:12 pm PST
Yes, I think it does at least as far as how the finger interacts with the string. Have fun playing this on the viola, enjoy!
HILDA LEVI on June 29, 2015 @12:20 pm PST
Anna M on September 8, 2014 @5:28 pm PST
Wow! Changing the speed of the vibrato makes a huge difference. Thanks for reminding me of this great tool and for demonstrating it so well! I'll remember this when I practice.
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