Cellist Aldo Parisot retires after 60 years at YSM

Aldo Parisot

For 60 years, cellists from around the world have come to the Yale School of Music to study with Aldo Parisot, a legendary figure in the field by any standard and an inimitable presence in our studios and concert halls. Today, we celebrate and honor a teacher, a colleague, and a friend for his decades of service to our students, to our School, and to music. At 99, Parisot’s retirement from teaching in June 2018 is a momentous occasion that merits reflection.

“The presence of Aldo Parisot in the School of Music has been transformative and transcendent,” YSM Dean Robert Blocker said. “His strongly held opinions about artistic excellence have led generations of faculty and students to carefully consider their points of view about music making, but with his rigorous intonements came a palpable love for the beauty of music and what it means to our lives.”

Parisot’s passion for teaching has been infectious. He is one of the rare musicians who has loved teaching as much as he has loved playing. In 1958, he joined the faculty at the Yale School of Music. In 1983, Parisot founded the Yale Cellos, an ensemble that has earned international acclaim for its rich sound, stunning virtuosity, beloved recordings, and numerous additions to the cello-ensemble literature. In 1988, Parisot closed out a remarkable performing career and dedicated himself fully to teaching. He was named the Samuel Sanford Professor of Music at Yale in 1994, and, in 2002, received the Gustave Stoeckel Award, the Yale School of Music’s most prestigious honor.

Throughout his career, Parisot viewed his students as family. “I have a great, great joy in teaching these people,” he said in 2017. “Those are my children … I see in them me, when (I) was young, and I want to see them succeed. I am very severe, because I care about them. I tell my students, ‘Your future depends on you. You’ve got to believe in yourself. You can do it. But only youcan do it. I can only help you.”

As a teacher, Parisot said he learned, over time, what worked and what did not. With his students, he emphasized a relaxed physical technique and freedom from tension as the basis of music-making. He didn’t want his students to imitate him as a player; instead he encouraged them to be themselves.

As he said to Ralph Kirshbaum ’68BA, one of his most well-known students, in an interview with The Strad, “I learn from my own students. Every day they surprise me. They come and do something, and I think, ‘Why didn’t I do that before? I never thought about that.’”

Parisot has long been known as a generous, passionate, forthright, and rigorous mentor. In addition to Kirshbaum, his former students include Jian Wang, Roman Jablonsky, Shauna Rolston, and Carter Brey. Parisot has called his students’ successes “an incredible pleasure.” He has taken a great interest in them as individuals and encouraged them to develop their own personalities, onstage and off. “I try to make students believe in themselves,” he said, “and that includes without the cello.”

Cellists around the world have made pilgrimages to his master classes. János Starker, Parisot’s friend of many years and a distinguished cello teacher at Indiana University, once described Parisot as “the best cello teacher I have met in my life.”

As a performer, Parisot was renowned for his virtuosic playing, beautiful sound, and astonishing technique. He performed on stages throughout the world, both as a recitalist and as a soloist with major orchestras, under the batons of such eminent conductors as Stokowski, Barbirolli, Bernstein, Mehta, Monteaux, and others.

Parisot was driven to expand the cello repertoire, premiering numerous works for the instrument — several of which were written for him. Reacting to his 1966 premiere of Donald Martino’s Parisonatina al’Dodecafonia, composed for and dedicated to him, The Boston Globedeclared, “There is probably no cellist that can equal Parisot’s dazzling achievement.” The New York Timesweighed in, saying, “Those at this performance are not going to forget [Parisot’s] feat overnight.” Parisot’s virtuosity had its beginnings in his native Brazil, where he learned from his stepfather, cellist Tomazzo Babini.

“When I heard his beautiful sound, I showed the desire to play immediately,” Parisot told Kirshbaum. “But before he would give me my first lesson he taught me solfège for two years, I didn’t play the cello until I was 7.” Parisot credits Babini—the only cello teacher he ever had—with instilling in him the technique that enabled him to grow into a virtuoso.

Parisot made his debut with the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra at age 12. When he was 18, he became the ensemble’s principal cellist. It was in Rio de Janiero that he came to the attention of an American attaché to the Brazilian embassy, Carleton Sprague Smith. Impressed with Parisot’s virtuosity, Smith offered to help him study abroad. Parisot was eager to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with Emanuel Feuermann, who died before Parisot was scheduled to leave Brazil. Parisot’s plans changed, and, with Smith’s help, he secured a scholarship to study at the Yale School of Music, an offer he accepted on the condition that he would not have to take any cello lessons.

Parisot arrived at Yale in 1946 as a “special student.” He studied chamber music and, with composer Paul Hindemith, music theory. In 1948, he auditioned for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, with which he played professionally for two years. But the orchestra life was not for him, and he longed to have a solo career. In 1950, he gave his debut recital at Town Hall in New York City, launching a celebrated international career that produced recordings for RCA Victor, Angel, Westminster, and Phonodisc.

His artistry has not been limited to the performing arts. Parisot has produced a significant number of paintings, describing his process as “painting by ear.” His visual art works exude his love for color and texture and in that way are reminiscent of his cello playing. Many of his works have been exhibited in concert halls and galleries around the world. He has given away many of his paintings, selling them at Yale Cellos concerts and other special events, donating the proceeds to a travel fund that he founded for Yale School of Music students.

Parisot’s contributions to the field are immeasurable and will inform the practice of countless cellists in generations to come. Perhaps his most important gift to the art form is that he did not teach his students to play like him, but, rather, encouraged each of them to discover their own voice. “There are many people who imitate their teacher,” he said. “I hate the idea that there’s someone in the world who sounds like a little Aldo Parisot. You’ve got to be yourself. We’ve all got to find our own way.”

Aldo Parisot, the Cellist: The Importance of the Circle, a biography written by Susan Hawkshaw, was published in 2018 by Pendragon Press.

 

Published July 19, 2018
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Emily Kruspe Joins Rolston String Quartet

Emily Kruspe

We spoke recently with violinist Emily Kruspe about joining YSM’s fellowship quartet-in-residence, the Rolston String Quartet, whose other three members have been working together for five years. Kruspe succeeds violinist Jeffrey Dyrda, who left the quartet to pursue new career opportunities.

“I’ve played a lot with professional ensembles, but never with a group so specialized as a quartet,” Kruspe said. “The other three have been playing together since 2013, and pretty much exclusively with each other, so they are extremely aware and good at reading each other’s body language, among many other things. The challenge for me is fitting in enough so as not to disrupt what has already been so well established, yet to have my own personality and voice in the group. In our rehearsals, there is actually a lot of discussion and demonstration. Not everything can be picked up by listening and imitation—ideas must be translated in other forms.”

Kruspe discussed the challenges of learning repertoire that the rest of the ensemble already knows. “Up until very recently, I have been playing pieces the quartet has rehearsed, been coached on, and performed,” Kruspe said. “To fit into an established interpretation of a work that has already been meticulously analyzed is difficult, but very rewarding. I am using parts of my brain I have never exercised before! What makes a lot of the challenging stuff easier is that these three musicians are among the easiest people to play with. They are very accommodating and clear, and it simplifies a lot for me.”

Kruspe also spoke about the opportunity to be mentored by the Brentano String Quartet, YSM’s quartet-in-residence. “Working with the Brentano Quartet—what can I say—I feel extremely fortunate. They are among the best quartets in the world, and are such wonderful people. I am so looking forward to working with and learning from them.”

ROLSTON STRING QUARTET

BRENTANO STRING QUARTET

Published June 21, 2018
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Music in Schools Initiative wins Ivy Award

The Music in Schools Initiative in practice

Each year, the Yale University Seton Elm-Ivy Awards recognize outstanding members of the Yale and New Haven communities who work together to improve “town and gown” relationships. The awards were established in 1979 by Phyllis and Fenmore Seton ’38 and have since honored more than 400 individuals and organizations through Elm Awards, which are given to members of the New Haven community, and Ivy Awards, which are given to Yale faculty, staff, and students.

YSM’s Music in Schools Initiative, under the leadership of Director Rubén Rodríguez ’11MM, Associate Dean Michael Yaffe, and Yaffe’s assistant, Rachel Glodo, earned a 2018 Ivy Award for its work in the Yale and New Haven communities.

“The distinctive characteristic of the Music in Schools Initiative is its sole focus on public schools,” said School of Music Dean Robert Blocker, who nominated the Music in Schools team for an Ivy Award. “Students and teachers are and have always been at the heart of all programming for the Initiative, with mentoring and active music-making permeating every aspect of the shared experiences. The evolution of this venture, especially under the watchful eyes of Michael, Rubén, and Rachel, has been extraordinary.”

The Music in Schools Initiative was established in 2007 to explore how music can be used as a means of social change in the city of New Haven and beyond. The foundation of the Initiative is a partnership with the New Haven Public Schools in which teaching artists from the School of Music support the work of certified music-education teachers. The Initiative also includes the Morse Summer Music Academy, a biennial Symposium on Music in Schools, and a visiting professor whose work focuses on community engagement.

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp and Yale University President Peter Salovey presented the Elm-Ivy Awards on Wednesday, April 25.

LEARN ABOUT THE MUSIC IN SCHOOLS INITIATIVE

Published April 25, 2018
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Anteo Fabris ’19MM premieres “Ocean Beach Cypher” at sustainability event

Anteo Fabris

School of Music student composer Anteo Fabris ’19MM premiered his piece Ocean Beach Cypher at Yale’s 2018 State of Sustainability Breakfast. Fabris described the work as being “about loss” and said “it allows us to ponder the sounds of the beautiful ocean we are destroying.” Accompanied by projected visuals created by Fabris, Ocean Beach Cypher was performed by YSM bassists Kelvin Ng ’19MM, Amy Nickler ’19MM, and Kohei Yamaguchi ’18MM. The breakfast, held in celebration of Earth Day, honored outstanding contributions to sustainability at Yale and featured Pericles Lewis, vice president for global strategy and deputy provost for international affairs, as the keynote speaker.

The Yale Office of Sustainability’s mission is to “advance sustainability within the Yale community by acting as a catalyst for information exchange and facilitating capacity building, innovation, streamlined operations, and preparation of tomorrow’s sustainability leaders,” according to its website. Part of the outgrowth of that mission is the Yale Sustainability Plan 2025, which “demonstrates [Yale’s] commitment to building a more sustainable world.”

As part of its participation in the University’s efforts, YSM crafted a School-wide action plan centered on enhancing and improving the myriad ways in which music can intersect with sustainability. The School’s plan speaks to the greening of music materials, such as how instrument parts are made, replaced, and recycled; how music is composed, published, and distributed; and other innovations that can reduce YSM’s environmental impact.

YSM SUSTAINABILITY ACTION PLAN

Published April 24, 2018
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Winners of 2018 Woolsey Hall Concerto Competition announced

The 2018 Woolsey Hall Concerto Competition took place on Sunday, April 8. This year’s competition yielded three winners: tubist Jacob Fewx ’18MM, who performed Arild Plau’s Concerto for Tuba and Strings; pianist Sophiko Simsive ’18MM, who performed Johannes Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15; and flutist Jungah Yoon ’19MM who performed Carl Reinecke’s Flute Concerto in D major, Op. 283. As winners, these students will perform with the Yale Philharmonia during the 2018-19 season. Cellist Samuel DeCaprio ’18MMA was selected as an alternate, and violinist Ariel Horowitz ’19MM received an honorable mention.

The judges were violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv, who serves as assistant professor of violin and viola and coordinator of strings at the University of Connecticut, André-Michel Schub, who is on the piano and chamber music faculty at the Manhattan School of Music, and New York Philharmonic bass trombonist George Curran, who is a faculty member at Rutgers University and the Manhattan School of Music.

We congratulate our outstanding students and look forward to hearing them perform next season with the Yale Philharmonia.

Published April 9, 2018
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YSM appoints Peter Serkin Visiting Professor of Piano

Peter Serkin. Photo by Regina Touhey Serkin

School of Music Dean Robert Blocker recently shared with the YSM community news that pianist Peter Serkin will join the faculty for the 2018-2019 academic year. Below is Dean Blocker’s enthusiastic announcement. 

I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Peter Serkin as Visiting Professor of Piano for the 2018-2019 academic year. A pianist of prodigious gifts and insights, Mr. Serkin began concertizing with America’s renowned orchestras and conductors at age 12, and his internationally celebrated career in the ensuing years has taken him to all corners of the globe. We are fortunate that his calendar permits him to be at Yale during our search for a senior piano professor.

Peter Serkin began his musical studies at the Curtis Institute of Music, where his teachers included the Polish pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski and the American virtuoso Lee Luvisi, as well as his father, Rudolf Serkin. He graduated in 1965 and the next year, at age 19, was the recipient of the Grammy Award in the Most Promising New Classical Recording Artist category (the award category later named Best New Classical Artist). Three of his recordings have earned Grammy nominations (one of them features six Mozart concerti, and the other two feature the music of Olivier Messiaen) along with other awards. Serkin was the first pianist to receive the Premio Internazionale Musicale Chigiana award, and in 2001, the New England Conservatory presented him with an honorary doctorate degree.

His extensive repertoire and discography reflect a commitment to and advocacy of the music of our time. Along with his musical and intellectual insights into the work of J.S. Bach (four recordings of the “Goldberg” Variations – the first at age 18), Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Chopin, and Dvorak, he has also explored the music of such composers as Reger, Berg, Webern, Schoenberg, Messiaen, Takemitsu, Oliver Knussen, Peter Lieberson, Stefan Wolpe, Elliott Carter, and Charles Wuorinen.

Among prominent virtuosi, Peter Serkin was one of the first to experiment with period fortepianos, and the first to record late Beethoven sonatas on modern pianos and instruments of Beethoven’s era. He has collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Pamela Frank, Andras Schiff, the Budapest Quartet, the Guarneri Quartet, and many other leading artists and orchestras. He is a founding member of TASHI (known later as the Tashi Quartet) and records for a variety of labels.

Mr. Serkin teaches master classes throughout the world and has taught at such leading institutions as the Curtis Institute of Music and The Juilliard School. He presently teaches at the Bard College Conservatory of Music. I am delighted that he will join Professor Boris Berman and the YSM piano faculty as a mentor and teacher to our gifted piano students. We look forward to the artistic and intellectual contributions Peter will make to the School of Music and to Yale in the year ahead.

Warmest regards,
Robert Blocker
The Henry and Lucy Moses Dean of Music
Yale School of Music

Published March 13, 2018
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YSM alumni take home Grammy Awards

The National’s “Sleep Well Beast”

Several Yale School of Music alumni won Grammy Awards on Sunday, Jan. 28. Please join us in congratulating the following musicians on this exciting accomplishment.

Guitarist Bryce Dessner ’99MM won as a member of The National, whose album Sleep Well Beast won in the “Best Alternative Music Album” category.

Saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom ’77MM earned an award as a surround producer in the “Best Surround Sound Album” category for her Early Americans.

Violinists Irene Cheng ’94MM and Louis Lev ’90MM and trombonist Rebecca Cherian ’81MM won as members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in the “Best Orchestral Performance” category for the ensemble’s recording of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Barber’s Adagio for Strings. For that recording, which was engineered by Mark Donahue, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra also won in the “Best Engineered Album, Classical” category.

Violinists Maureen Nelson ’00MM and Kayla Moffett ’13MM and cellist Joshua Koestenbaum ’80MM won as members of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in the “Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance” category for the ensemble’s Death and the Maiden album, which features music by Dowland, Gesualdo, Kurtág, Normiger, and Schubert.

Published January 29, 2018
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Sir Jonathan Mills to host public lectures at Yale

Sir Jonathan Mills. Photo by Seamus McGarvey

Sir Jonathan Mills, Trumbull Fellow, will present a series of four public lectures that will collectively address issues related to “Culture, Creativity, and Community.” Mills, who is known for his directorship, from 2006 until 2014, of the internationally celebrated Edinburgh International Festival, has also led prestigious festivals in his native Australia and is recognized around the world for his thought-provoking compositions. Mills holds a bachelor of music degree in composition from the University of Sydney and a master of architecture from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia in 2011 and knighted in 2013. All lectures are free and open to the public.

Tuesday, September 26
“A Potted History of Festivals and Festival Making”
4:30 p.m., Sudler Recital Hall, William L. Harkness Hall

As you read this brief description, chances are several new festivals will have been inaugurated, somewhere in the world. But are such events genuine? Do they achieve that special mixture of substance and serendipity, so essential to the intriguing, immersive idea of a festival? What do we even mean when we use the word? Using the festival as a model for social and artistic engagement, Jonathan Mills explores aspects of the complex relationships between ritual and place, habit and space, that throughout history have come to define an illusive, fragile, universal though diverse phenomenon – a festival.

Thursday, October 5
“A State of the Arts”
The case for cosmopolitanism – putting culture at the center of multiculturalism
5 p.m., Whitney Humanities Center, Auditorium

We live in a world that faces huge challenges: exploding population growth, diminishing natural resources, vanishing indigenous cultures, increasing tribalism and bitter localized feuds, human dislocation of unprecedented dimensions, large-scale suffering from easily preventable or treatable diseases. It is increasingly evident that we will not be able to rationalize or legislate, let alone engineer, our way beyond our current predicaments. Culture is a prism through which to perceive the equilibrium of any society. The value of the arts has an inestimable impact on not only the vibrancy of the world we create, but also on the ways in which such challenges might be addressed.  Jonathan Mills explores ways in which one might conceive of a central role for an engagement with culture as an essential element of understanding, imagining, and realizing our social and economic well-being.

Monday, October 9
“Artists and Communities – Performing the City”
6:30 p.m., Paul Rudolph Hall, Yale School of Architecture, Hastings Hall (basement level) 

“Just as places are sensed, senses are placed” – Maurice Merleau Ponty

How do we respond to the intimate details of our surroundings? Our homes, or streets? Our neighborhoods and offices? Our urban, or, decreasingly, our rural environments? Driving through a city, a town, a neighborhood, even within speed limits, how much do we really notice? Are the textures and assemblages of buildings and streetscapes, landmarks and landscapes, ever more than fleeting glances? Are we doing anything other than passing through? Do we truly inhabit or celebrate the places in which we work, love, or play? What kind of sensory relationships exist within these familiar places? Do we perform, through ritual or reverie, consciously or intuitively, simple acts of recognition to reflect upon and evoke the places in which we live  and how those places and spaces transform over time? Jonathan Mills explores the idea of performance as a way in which we might want to inhabit and reimagine our place in the world.

Watch this lecture live, online here.

Tuesday, October 24
Improvisation and Leadership”
5 p.m., Evans Hall, Yale School of Management, Room 4410

How stable or predictable is our world? Can we truly know what the future holds for any of us? Are we in control of our lives or livelihoods? Or is life nothing more than a great big improvisation? The very word “improvisation” conjures images of mellow musicians spontaneously sparking off one another in remarkable and ingenious ways.  The idea of improvisation is much more than a musical phenomenon. In so many ways, and in a wide variety of professional circumstances, at some stage in our careers, we are all called upon to improvise. How we choose to respond to such moments can define our personal, professional, and ethical achievements. Drawing on a range of personal experiences, Jonathan Mills proposes to develop a repertoire of improvisational scenarios and link them to the insights of leadership.

Published September 15, 2017
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YSM announces revamped B.A./M.M. degree program

High-school students can now apply to the Yale School of Music’s bachelor of arts/master of music program. Previously open only to Yale College students making plans for graduate school, the revamped degree path allows high-school students to plan simultaneously for college and graduate school. The program is designed for outstanding instrumentalists who are also interested in pursuing a liberal-arts education.

As had been and remains the case, Yale College students can apply to the program during their junior year. Now, high-school students everywhere can apply to attend college and graduate school at Yale. That is, admission to the five-year program is through acceptance into both Yale College and the School of Music, either after the third year of the College’s bachelor of arts program or before matriculation into Yale College.

The program, in its expanded form, offers undergraduates the opportunity to spread master’s-degree course requirements and study with YSM faculty over the course of five years. Similarly, Yale College students who begin the program in their senior year can complete some requirements toward their master’s degrees before graduating and enrolling at the School of Music.

The revamped B.A./M.M. program should be particularly appealing to pre-college students who might otherwise have trouble deciding whether to go the conservatory or university route. YSM’s B.A./M.M. degree offers students the opportunity to pursue both degrees at the highest levels of education, and at the only music school in the Ivy League.

Among those who’ve taken advantage of the program are Philadelphia Orchestra assistant conductor Kensho Watanabe ’09BS ’10MM, who studied biology at Yale College and violin at YSM, and Charlotte Symphony Orchestra principal flutist Victor Wang ’14BS ’15MM, who also studied biology at Yale College and received his master’s degree from YSM.

MORE INFORMATION
APPLY TO YALE COLLEGE
APPLY TO THE YALE SCHOOL OF MUSIC

Published August 15, 2017
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Rolston String Quartet named YSM’s new fellowship quartet-in-residence

Rolston String Quartet | Photo by Tianxiao Zhang Photography

The Rolston String Quartet ’16Norfolk has been named the new fellowship quartet-in-residence at the Yale School of Music. The group, whose previous residencies include the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in the summer of 2016, will begin their tenure at YSM this fall. While at Yale, the quartet will work closely with the Brentano String Quartet — YSM’s quartet-in-residence — perform recitals, and participate in education-outreach programs.

“The Rolston String Quartet is very eager to come to New Haven as the Yale School of Music’s fellowship quartet-in-residence,” the group said in a statement. “We are incredibly optimistic about the possibilities for development and growth provided by Yale’s stimulating environment. We can’t wait to meet the Yale students and faculty who will illuminate and influence this new experience. Working closely with the Brentano Quartet is a dream come true. They are endlessly generous and inspiring people whose artistic spirits are to be admired. We look forward to deepening our musical understandings, refining our interpretations, and benefiting from their extensive professional experience.

“We will be so lucky to be able to coach chamber ensembles made up of Yale (undergraduate) students; this opportunity is a rare one that will yield immense insight into the complexities of teaching music. The fellowship program at Yale will aid our growth as we cultivate an ensemble that reflects the values of community, the highest levels of artistic and academic excellence, and the important traditions of chamber music,” the group said.

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Published May 16, 2017
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