A morning with Goritzki

19th November 2010 | Concerts, Inspirations | 2 comments

Went to a marvellous cello masterclass given by Johannes Goritzki at the Royal College of Music. He spent hours persuading the students that playing the cello was easier than they thought, just a matter of applying weight in the right place, not working against the natural functions of muscles, understanding that the cello bow can do a lot of the work if you don’t interfere, and taking every opportunity to be relaxed. He quoted the great cellist Emmanuel Feuermann as having said that playing the cello should be as comfortable as sitting in an armchair.

Obviously all this is poetic licence, because playing the cello is clearly a complicated matter, but it was wonderful to see the effect of Goritzki’s suggestions. Best of all was that when the students used weight instead of force, or stopped gripping the cello tightly, or even just relaxed their jaws, their sound was bigger and freer, as well as easier to produce. To see this kind of transformation within each person’s lesson was like being at the theatre.

It reminded me of Bach’s remark that playing the organ is ‘nothing remarkable: all you have to do is play the right notes in the right order.’ Easier said than done, of course. But stating things very simply, as Goritzki did, can help someone to see a way past their usual preoccupations. A mental switch suddenly enables them to see the problem in a different way. And the results can come so fast!


  1. Paul Austen

    Susan, you mention Bach playing the organ. I remember my mother in law asking us (Bob, myself and Sue) if we could choose a musical moment of the past to experience, what would it be. I remember I cheated and asked for two – one was to hear Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius with Kathleen Ferrier as the Angel and the other was to hear and watch Bch playing his Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor!!

  2. Susan Tomes

    Yes, wouldn’t that be so interesting? I wonder if Bach’s playing would surprise us. I’ve always wondered if his idea of timing and so on was exactly as ours is today, or different in some unpredictable way.


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