Fred Parry was born in Glasgow and studied cello at the R.S.A.M.D. under the guidance of Audrey Scott and Joan Dickson. He has been a freelance cellist and teacher in Scotland for over 30 years. Throughout his playing career he has always taught cello. He was a founder member of Bellarmine Arts Centre, Music Co-Ordinator at the Strathclyde Arts Centre as well as being the cello tutor for the Glasgow Schools Symphony Orchestra. Four years ago he organised and conducted Glasgow’s Schools first Cello Orchestra where they had a very successful debut with the eminent cellist Julian Lloyd Webber. He now conducts/coaches a number of Cello Ensemble groups throughout the year. He also conducts/coaches young string groups such as the Junior String Orchestra of NYSOS. He earlier this year gave his debut concert conducting the Glasgow Schools Symphony Orchestra
The Development of the Cello
The cello developed from the bass violin, first referred to by Jambe de Fer in 1556, which was originally a three-string instrument. The first instance of a composer specifying the bass violin may have been Gabrieli in Sacrae symphoniae, 1597. Monteverdi referred to the instrument as "basso de viola da braccio" in Orfeo (1607). Although the first bass violin, possibly invented by Amati as early as 1538, was most likely inspired by the viol, it was created to be used in consorts with the violin. The bass violin was actually often referred to as a "violone," or "large viola," as were the viols of the same period. Instruments that share features with both the bass violin and the viola de gamba appear in Italian art of the early 1500s...
The invention of wire-wound strings (fine wire around a thin gut core), around 1660 in Bologna, allowed for a finer bass sound than was possible with purely gut strings on such a short body. Bolognese makers exploited this new technology to create the cello, a somewhat smaller instrument suitable for solo repertoire due to both the timbre of the instrument and the fact that the smaller size made it easier to play virtuosic passages. This instrument had disadvantages as well, however. The cello's light sound was not as suitable for church and ensemble playing, so it had to be doubled by basses or violones.
Around 1700, Italian players popularized the cello in northern Europe, although the bass violin (basse de violon) continued to be used for another two decades in France Many existing bass violins were literally cut down in size in order to convert them into cellos according to the smaller pattern cello as developed by Stradivari, who also made a number of old pattern large cello's (the 'Servais'). The bass violin remained the "most used" instrument in England as late as 1740, where the violoncello was still "not common." The sizes, names, and tunings of the cello varied widely by geography and time. The size was not standardized until around 1750.
Despite similarities to the viola da gamba, the cello is actually part of the viola da braccioviolin and viola. Though paintings like Bruegel's "The Rustic Wedding" and de Fer in his Epitome Musical suggest that the bass violin had alternate playing positions, these were short-lived and the more practical and ergonomic a gamba position eventually replaced them entirely.
Baroque era cellos differed from the modern instrument in several ways. The neck has a different form and angle which matches the baroque bass-bar and stringing. Modern cellos have an endpin at the bottom to support the instrument (and transmit some of the sound through the floor), while Baroque cellos are held only by the calves of the player. Modern bows curve in and are held at the frog; Baroque bows curve out and are held closer to the bow's point of balance. Modern strings normally have a metal core, although some use a synthetic core; Baroque strings are made of gut, with the G and C strings wire-wound. Modern cellos often have fine-tuners connecting the strings to the tailpiece, which make it much easier to tune the instrument. Overall, the modern instrument has much higher string tension than the Baroque cello, resulting in a louder, more projecting tone, with fewer overtones.
No educational works specifically devoted to the cello existed before the 18th century, and those that do exist contain little value to the performer beyond simple accounts of instrumental technique. The earliest cello manual is Michel Corrette's Méthode, thèorique et pratique pour apprendre en peu de temps le violoncelle dans sa perfection (Paris, 1741).