Rondo in G minor, Op. 94
In this masterclass, Yi-Bing Chu discusses bringing out the drama and the spirit in Dvořák’s Rondo for cello. He helps his student transform the piece into a story, describing the different characters, and their varying emotions and desires as the piece progresses. Chu underlines that the performer should bring a sense of theater to the piece. He encourages the student to indulge more in the happy spirit of the music. The audience should want to dance along with him.
Furthermore, Chu comments on maintaining the tempo, especially when the dynamics change, as well as making sure to vary repeated material, so the music is never static.
Bringing out the different characters and theater in the music.
Expressing the happy, dancing spirit of the music.
How to be your own coach.
Varying repeated material.
Not allowing the dynamics affect the tempo.
It is ironic to think that Dvořák believed the cello was not suited to be a solo instrument against an orchestra, as he composed some of the most beautiful works for cello that exist. In 1892, the composer embarked on a performance tour with violinist Ferdinand Lachner and cellist Hanuš Wihan throughout Bohemia and Moravia, bidding goodbye to his home before leaving to reside in the United States. They performed as a trio, in duos, and as soloists. Upon realizing that he and Wihan needed more repertoire for piano and cello, he arranged a few works for the combination and composed the Rondo in G minor, which he later orchestrated. The rondo is in a typical ABACABA structure. Despite its minor key, the work is lively, full of dance rhythms, lyricism, and virtuosity, though it does draw to a subdued close.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this cello masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Yi-Bing Chu's feedback and comments.
Winner of the International Music Performance Competition in Geneva in 1986
Born into a family of musicians, Yi-Bing Chu began to learn the cello at the age of 8 with his father, who was professor at the Central Conservatory of Music (Beijing, China). At an early age he began to perform, and at 10, he recorded his first disc. At that time, the Cultural Revolution in China was still underway and classical music was banned. Chu eventually enrolled in a class taught by celebrated cellist, Maurice Gendron, at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris. He graduated in 1987 with a Premier Prix. Furthermore, he won First Prize at the Concours international d’exécution de musique in Geneva in 1986.
In 1989, Chu became principal cellist at the Basel Symphony Orchestra, Switzerland, and stayed there until 2004. From 2004 to 2018, he was appointed cello professor at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. There, he passionately contributed to the spread and influence of chamber music throughout China. With this, Chu founded the China Philharmonic Cellists, made up of his cellist students. With them, he has given hundreds of concerts across the country.
He has performed for prominent figures, such as the presidents of China, France and the United States. Chu is keen on spreading classical music to as many people as possible, by giving concerts in universities, hospitals, factories and jails for millions of Chinese people who have little access to this genre. He also founded the SuperCello Festival, Beijing, and produced three recordings with his cellist students.
Antonín Dvořák is perhaps the most internationally known Czech composer. Born near Prague, Czech Republic in 1841, Dvořák was raised by his father, who was a professional musician and his mother, who had Bohemian ancestry. This Bohemian heritage would influence many of his compositions later in life. As a teenager, he was sent to live with an uncle to learn German and wrote his first piece, a polka, in 1855. His musical education continued with organ, piano, violin, as well as music theory and composition lessons. His deeply religious family agreed to let him become a musician, but on the condition that we would become a professional organist. In 1857, he returned to Prague and was soon integrated into a professional orchestra. Bohemian Provisional Theater Orchestra’s director Jan Nepomuk Maýr hired Dvořák as a viola player. Working in such an environment provided young Dvořák with the advantageous opportunity to watch many concerts without having to pay for tickets. In 1862, he composed his first string quartet. He also played in Wagner-directed concerts, which would set off a lifelong admiration for the famous composer.
While working for the Bohemian Provisional Theater Orchestra, Antonín Dvořák fell in love with his colleague Josefína Čermáková, who never returned his affection. Dvořák later married Josefina’s sister Anna and had nine children with her. In 1871, he left the Provisional Theater to focus on composing. He proposed his first opera, The King and the Charcoal Burner, to his former employer at the Provisional Theater, but his work was rejected for being too difficult to stage. A philharmonic version was performed in 1872. In 1875, he wrote his second string quartet and in 1877, he won the Austrian State Prize with his Moravian Duets. The years of the 1880s were marked by strong anti-Czech sentiments in Vienna, and Dvořák was not spared. His Stabat Mater was particularly targeted by what the composer felt was “destructive criticism”. He left with his family and traveled to Russia and Britain, where his work was well appreciated. He then accepted a job as composition professor at the Prague Conservatory for a while, before moving to the US for three years, from 1892 to 1895, under contract at the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. Unfortunately, the music school underwent great financial difficulties, and in 1895, Dvořák and his family left the US permanently, returning to Europe. He went back to teaching in Prague and focused on chamber music and opera composition. In 1904, his health took a downturn, and he fell ill, dying a few months later in May of that same year. His most well-known pieces range from chamber music and Slavonic Dances to the majestic New World Symphony, as well as solo concertos for violin, cello, and piano.