UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

A great wave in the evolution of the modern cellist : Diran Alexanian and Maurice Eisenberg, two master cello pedagogues from the legacy of Pablo Casals Falta, Oskar


Pablo Casals (1876-1973) ranks amongst the most influential figures in the history of the violoncello. Casals never held a permanent teaching position, neither did he commit his teaching philosophy to paper. This thesis examines three selected aspects of expressive tools: intonation, vibrato, and portamento – as interpreted by Casals – and defines how they are reflected in methods of two cellists with first-hand access to Casals's knowledge: Diran Alexanian (1881-1954) and Maurice Eisenberg (1900-1972). The first chapter presents two extensive biographical accounts of these authors. Alexanian taught at the École Normale de Musique and was succeeded by his student Eisenberg. Both cellists spent their later careers teaching in the USA. Their relationship to Casals is discussed as well: Alexanian was Casals's trusted colleague, while Eisenberg his favourite student. Alexanian's method Traité théoretique et pratique du violoncelle was published in 1922 and Eisenberg's Cello Playing of Today first appeared in 1957. All subsequent chapters contain a historical overview of the expressive tools under consideration, how Casals contributed to their development, and how the methods of Alexanian and Eisenberg discuss Casals's contributions. Each chapter contains a critical discussion of the tools' applicability to the playing of today. The second chapter provides an analysis of Casals's expressive use of intonation, discusses its practical relevance and how it is often erroneously taken for a tuning system. The third chapter introduces how vibrato developed from an occasional ornament to a crucial component of sound production and how Casals brought the "continuous vibrato" to cello playing. The fourth and final chapter offers a detailed discussion of Casals's right-hand technique and his use of portamento. My research demonstrates that not all of the content of Alexanian's method identifies with Casals's ideas – Alexanian never studied with Casals and had his own strong views. Alexanian's treatise, however, forms a bridge between two different eras, before and after Casals's hugely influential contribution to cello playing. In comparison, Eisenberg's method is in total accordance with Casals's ways of playing and his presentation of methodology is more comprehensive. Eisenberg's method presents the definitive written legacy of Casals's ideas.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International