Holiday Gifts for the Cellist in Your Life

By Miranda Wilson

This is going to be the strangest festive season ever, but nothing is going to stop us doing our holiday shopping, right? Just for a moment, let’s take our minds off pandemic gloom and think about something fun instead: gift-giving! If you’ve been wondering what to get for your cello-fanatic kid, your awesome cellist friend, your school orchestra director, or someone you know who loves classical music and the cello, look no further!

For art-loving cellists: I love this reproduction of Alphonse Mucha’s portrait of cellist Zdenka Czerny. You can get it as a poster, a canvas, or even a sticker here. I adore Jugendstil and art nouveau, so the old-world glamour of this print makes me smile.

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For kids: In One Ear & Out the Other: Antonia Brico and Her Amazingly Musical Life by Diane Worthey. Diane is a dear friend of mine and this, her first book, is fabulous. She tells the story of Antonia Brico, a musically gifted child who overcame many naysayers and other difficult obstacles to become one of the world’s first great women conductors. This would be an inspirational gift for a music-loving child…or anyone who needs a reminder to never give up on a dream.

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For lovers of cellist-composers: I recently listened to this incredible recording by Phoebe Carrai and Tanya Tomkins of cello duets by Friedrich August Kummer. This is some seriously gorgeous playing. If you’re curious to listen, please buy the recording so that the performers can profit — streaming services such as Spotify don’t pay performers much (if anything).

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For hardcore cello nerds: these amazing drawings of the bow-hands of famous cellists. Janos Starker, Jacqueline du Pré , Gregor Piatigorsky, Pierre Fournier, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Paul Tortelier…imagine having them on the wall of your practice room to inspire you every day!

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For lovers of short stories: check out Gill Tennant’s tales of cellos and the cellists who love them. These stories span hundreds of years and several continents, with a vast cast of characters held together by their shared obsession — the cello. Though the cover looks as if it might be a children’s book, it’s definitely a grown-up read. Enthusiasts of women composers will enjoy the strong feminist thread that runs throughout.

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More cellist-composers: many of us learned Bernhard Romberg’s cello sonatas as “pedagogical” pieces. Hannah Holman and Réne Lecuona have made a whole disc of them, and it’s lovely. If you only knew Romberg as that friend of Beethoven who inexplicably turned down his offer of a cello concerto, it’s time to forgive him. Romberg is no Beethoven, but his sonatas hold up pretty well as good music in their own right.

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And last but not least (because I can’t resist a shameless plug): my very own Cello Practice, Cello Performance, a book for aspiring cellists preparing for the pressures of performance. I wrote CPCP because it was the advice I needed to hear when I was a student. Namely: “talent” isn’t a mysterious thing that only a few lucky people get to have. Success in performance directly reflects what we self-teach in practice, and CPCP reimagines practice with that goal in mind.

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Still unsure what to get your cellist? Well…no one hates a gift card for coffee, since cellists are all massive coffee fiends. Ho ho ho and happy holidays, everyone!

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