The venerable cello teacher, who celebrates his 100th birthday in September, recently announced his retirement from the Yale School of Music. He shares his insights and looks back at the beginnings of his distinguished career
Try as hard as you can to find out who you really are and then convey it to the audience. When you’re performing in public, you’re there to tell a story. That does not involve staring at your fingerboard – there’s nothing there to help you! Look at the audience instead of the darn fingerboard. Sure, you can glance down occasionally, but you mustn’t let it get in the way of what you want to do musically. Aside from all the technical aspects of cello playing, the most important thing my teacher Tomazzo Babini taught me was to project my personality – and how to do it.
Two years after my father dropped dead of a heart attack, my mother married Tomazzo, an Italian who had been principal cellist of the orchestra of La Scala in Milan. He was born in 1885 and later moved to Rio de Janeiro – where he became friends with Villa-Lobos – before settling in Natal in eastern Brazil, where he met my mother. After I had heard the beautiful sound of his playing, I told my mother I wanted to learn the cello and begged her to let me study with him. I was four. At first, he didn’t want to teach me because he thought…
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