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Greenhouse @ Wigmore Hall

Master Class September 2005

Cello Classics DVD CC1901 [3 hrs 50 mins]

We have received this for review upon the death at 95 of Bernard Greenhouse, revered cellist and founder member of The Beaux Arts Trio, a valued teacher right until the end of his long active life.

The sessions in Wigmore Hall to celebrate his 90th year are complemented by an interview with Ralph Kirschbaum (cello teacher of one of the subjects from Royal Northern College of Music).

His ear and 90 year old fingers remained as sharp as ever, and he demonstrated the minutiae he was seeking on the Stradivarius cello which had been his constant companion for so long, and which he was determined should not became a museum exhibit upon his passing.

He minces no words in his devastating criticisms of the first run-throughs, drawing immediate attention to musical shortcomings of imagination and basic technique he found in the playing of young cellists selected competitively from the UK colleges, each of whom already had an enviable CV.

But his manner is essentially gentle, if unremittingly persistent in getting from them what he wants, with many a bravo when things come right.

Always he was seeking heightened but unexaggerated musical expression, deploring unconsidered repetition.

Afterwards, no matter how savagely from an outsider's point of view they seemed to have been treated, each one spoke appreciatively of how they had learnt and what they needed to digest, with some realising that he represents an older performance tradition, e.g. with regard to the prevalence of vibrato in Bach.

For cellists, students or established professionals, this is an obligatory purchase, and I hope that it will now be brought to wider attention than originally?

For the keen music lover, it is probably the best of all Master Class DVDs (we have reviewed many of them; check with Google) and it is eagerly recommended; you will not be disappointed, and will listen to cello recitalists quite differently thereafter having heard Greenhouse teaching Bach, Beethoven, Bloch and Schumann.

Fine production and filming in Wigmore Hall, with background photos which contribute to the whole, leaving you feeling you have been able to get to know a little a great man as well as a consummate musician.

My only small thought, which I have voiced in connection with other master classes, is that it may be better sometimes to curtail full run-throughs of longer movements to allow more actual teaching time in the limited minutes often available, and also to help listeners to the DVDs (c.f Master Classes of Berman & Kliegel).

Peter Grahame Woolf