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January 2014
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Cello Perspectives: Dmitry Kouzov

Dmitry Kouzov

Hear Dmitry Kouzov with the Formosa Quartet on Monday at 8:00 PM, and Wednesday at 12:15 PM


To celebrate Cello Month on WFMT, we’ve invited a number of professional players to consider a set of questions; expecting—and hoping for—a range of answers to widen our perspective on the instrument. Dmitry Kouzov is ‘subbing’ for the Formosa Quartet’s cellist Ru-Pei Yeh. He and the Formosas have two live performances on WFMT in the next week: Monday’s Live from WFMT and Wednesday’s Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert.

Russian cellist Dmirty Kouzov is an active chamber musician, having played with Joshua Bell, Yuri Bashmet, Krzysztof Penderecki, Donald Weilerstein, Ilya Gringolts, and Pacifica Quartet, among others; he is a founding member of the Manhattan Piano Trio. He’s served on the cello faculties at Juilliard and Oberlin. He’s now Assistant Professor of Cello at the University of Illinois.


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 7 years old when I started to play the cello. I chose the cello by accident: the cello teacher who was at the entrance test for music school was the only person who talked to me after the exam, and she said that I had good cello hands. At age 11, I entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory Lyceum, which trained me to become a professional cellist.


Can you name a piece or two of core repertoire that requires extra prep time? What specifically makes it challenging for players?There are many pieces which require extra time for preparation, and out of the standard cello concertos, Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante comes to mind for its length, stamina problems, and technical virtuosity.


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?
Yes, the cello is sensitive to weather conditions, particularly humidity changes. It doesn’t require scheduled maintenance, but I get it checked up when it doesn’t feel right. Sometimes I need to get the seams glued, other times I need to get the sound post placement adjusted.


What’s your favorite cello recording? Why?
One recording that comes to mind, is Rostropovich’s recording of the Shostakovich Concertos, which I used to listen to in my childhood.


If you could go back in time to advise composers about the cello, who would you talk to, and what would you suggest?
I would get back to Mozart and ask him to write concertos and sonatas for the cello!


How do you teach fingerings to young cellists? What is it about the instrument’s design that makes fingerings so tricky to players?
The cello is a big instrument and requires significantly more shifting than the violin. I give my students fingering suggestions based on style, historical context, and technical convenience, and I always explain why I make these suggestions. I don’t think it makes sense to prescribe fingerings to students without explaining the thinking behind it.


When two cellists get together, they talk about?

joie de vivre!


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?
To keep in shape, I practice scales with double-stops and arpeggios. Unfortunately, things are not getting easier; they’re actually getting more difficult with experience and age because my musical understanding, and subsequently, my demands, are both increasing.



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