Professor Jens Peter Maintz works with student Thomas Prchal to find more clarity and expression in Ligeti’s Cello Sonata. Maintz recalls his own experience playing for Ligeti and relays the importance of playing clearly in all the passage work, despite the fast tempi and challenging technical demands. He offers the student several alternative fingerings and bowing that will help him play with more ease and capture the right color in the sound.
Maintz emphasizes the need to highlight the dialogue between the higher and lower strings, which represent a man and a woman, by finding unique but contrasting sounds in each register. He also discusses vibrato, tempo, and dynamics in an effort to help the student achieve the atmosphere Ligeti intended.
Bringing out the dialogue and characters of the upper and lower strings.
Choosing optimal fingerings and bowing.
Controlling the vibrato.
Having clarity in arpeggios, pizzicatos, and fast passages.
Creating the intended atmosphere of the music.
Ligeti wrote his Cello Sonata in 1966 for cellist Siegfried Palm. The orchestration is small, including a condensed wind and brass section with strings and harp. Originally intended to be a one-movement work, the two movements are played without pause. Some scholars refer to the piece as an “anti-concerto,” as it abandons most of the components of a standard instrumental concerto; the cello does not display expressive melodic material and does not particularly relate to its orchestral accompaniment. Instead, the piece is atmospheric, setting a mood through extreme dynamic contrast and extended presentations of single pitches. The opening is marked pppppppp; the cellist is meant to emerge gradually from silence. From there, the cellist crescendoes over time, though remains on one pitch for over two minutes. The second movement is slightly more active, engaging in virtuosic atonality and unusual compositional techniques and textures.
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 Jens Peter Maintz’s feedback and comments.
1994 he won first prize at the ARD International Music Competition in Munich.
Jens Peter Maintz enjoys an outstanding reputation as a versatile soloist, highly sought-after chamber musician, and committed cello teacher.
Originally from Hamburg, Germany, he studied with David Geringas and took part in masterclasses with other great cellists such as Heinrich Schiff, Boris Pergamenschikow, Frans Helmerson, and Siegfried Palm. He was further influenced by his intensive chamber music study with Uwe-Martin Haiberg and Walter Levin. In 1994, he won first prize in the ARD International Music Competition, which was the first time to be awarded to a cellist in 17 years.
He gathered several years of valuable orchestral experience as Principal Cello of the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester in Berlin, and travelled the world as a member of the renowned Trio Fontenay. Since 2006, Jens Peter Maintz has been principal cello of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, on the invitation of Claudio Abbado. His solo career has brought him into contact with conductors such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Herbert Blomstedt, Marek Janowski, Dmitry Kitajenko, and more. He has appeared as a soloist with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig MDR Symphony Orchestra, Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Den Haag Residenzorchester and Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. Maintz’s Sony Classical CD of solo works by Bach, Dutilleux, and Kodaly won the ECHO-Klassik award. Additionally, his highly acclaimed recording of Haydn’s cello concertos with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen was released on the Berlin Classics label.
Since 2004, he has been professor at the Berlin University of the Arts, where he teaches a highly popular and successful cello class. Many of his students are prizewinners in important international competitions, and some hold leading positions in major orchestras.
György Ligeti was born in Hungary in 1923 and is often regarded as one of the most important avant-garde composers of the 20th century. During WWII, he and his family suffered a tragedy when some members were sent to Auschwitz, and he was sent to a labor camp. After the war, he resumed his studies and became a professor.
After the violent Hungarian Revolution of 1956, he and his wife fled the country and settled in Austria. Ligeti began to tour Europe, and being curious by nature, was inspired by many new influences, among them electronic music in Cologne. He also was a professor in Sweden and the US before retiring, when his health started to fail at the turn of the 21st century. He died in 2006 after being ill for many years, leaving behind his wife Vera and son Lukas. He left behind a vast and diverse repertoire, including some incredibly famous works such as Atmosphères (1961) for orchestra; Requiem (1963–65) for soprano, mezzo-soprano, two choruses, and orchestra; and Lux Aeterna (1966) for the chorus. These three works were later featured in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which brought Ligeti’s work to a wider audience.