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Cello Perspectives: Wendy Warner

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“Ms. Warner’s expressive playing and glowing tone were everywhere a pleasure…”

The New York Times, May 19, 2010

To celebrate Cello Month on WFMT, we’ve invited a number of professional players to consider a set of questions. Today’s artist is Chicago native Wendy Warner. Wendy records for Cedille Records and will be featured on Wednesday’s edition of Cedille Chicago Presents, 10:00 PM.

Wendy Warner performs with major orchestras around the world. At fourteen she performed with the Chicago Symphony on a WTTW broadcast; she was soloist with Mstislav Rostropovich and the National Symphony at the age of 18, and was his student at the Curtis Institute. She began studying cello at the with Nell Novak at what is now the Music Institute of Chicago. She also became an accomplished pianist under the tutelage of Emilio del Rosario.

How old were you when you started to play? Why did you choose the cello? What made you decide to become a musician?
I was six when I started cello. My mom chose it for me. I was not attracted to the sound of the cello’s lower range. I loved the violin, a prima donna instrument because I knew it got all the melodies. I knew I would always do music. Both my parents and grandparents were musicians. I used to ask other kids “what instrument do you play?”

Can you name a piece or two of core repertoire that requires extra prep time? What specifically makes it challenging for players?
Prokofiev Symphonie Concertante is a challenging piece that needs extra time. It is 45 minutes long and needs extra preparation because it requires so much stamina. I approach this piece the same way I would if I were an athlete training for a marathon.

Do you have a maintenance schedule for the cello? What has to be done to keep it in top working order? Is the instrument sensitive to conditions and how do you adjust?
I own two cellos. One is my modern cello, Carl Becker, 1963, the other Joseph Gagliano, 1773. I love both of my cellos. The Gagliano requires a lot of adjusting because it is more finicky than the Becker. I go into Carl Becker’s shop (on East Adams Street in Chicago) for routine bridge adjustments.

What’s your favorite cello recording? Why?
One of my favorite cello recordings is Pierre Fournier Bach Suites for their elegance.

If you could go back in time to advise composers about the cello, who would you talk to, and what would you suggest?
hmmm…this question is hard. Not sure I would make any suggestions…but I would love to meet Popper. Not many people know what an amazing composer he was aside from his etudes. I devoted a CD to his works, Im Walde Suite and Op. 63 Suite. He was a great composer, not just a technician

How do you teach fingerings to young cellists? What is it about the instrument’s design that makes fingerings so tricky to players?
How do I teach fingerings??? I think vocally so I try to think beyond the instrument….afterall Schumann was not idiomatic in his writing for cello….

When two cellists get together, what are some of the peculiarities of the instrument that they talk about?
When two cellists get together, they usually don’t talk shop….they just love to play music….

Do you find playing the cello gets easier, and that you can practice less? Is there a piece of music you play that helps you keep up your technique?
Cello in a sense does get easier. I find that all the pieces, technical studies I learned before age 18 stick with me. If you work very hard before a certain age, certain things stick ….Dvořák concerto helps me to keep in shape.

  • Noura

    What else do you do besides play music?