Paul Katz and Carriage House Violins: A Discussion About Endpins

Paul Katz and Carriage House Violins: A Discussion About Endpins


In your lesson with Sebastian, you were discussing the different ideas behind being relaxed at the cello. I wanted to ask you what you thought on endpins and the various types of endpins. I noticed that you play on a Stahlhammer endpin. Would you mind talking about that? Katz: Well, a Stahlhammer endpin is a bent endpin, right? So it’s a brand I can show you. So you can see here, the bend and the reason for that is to bring the cello up and make it a little bit flatter as opposed to vertical. This is not an easy subject because, you know we’re all different heights so as you get more advanced and more experienced on the instrument, you have to do a certain amount of experimenting. But you need to know the principles involved, right. What I’m looking for is, if I do it in an extreme like this make it look like this, as the cello gets flat like this, you can just rest your arm on it. You can use your arm weight, we always talk about playing with arm weight, but the more vertical the cello gets the more difficult it is to capture the weight of the arm. So I believe when things are too vertical that people start to press and I…also a distinction that not everybody gets: There’s a difference between resting and feeling weight and being…or pushing down with your muscles. So that distinction is very important. So when you get this sense of weight here, then…I even sometimes have people put the cello on their knees and hold it like this just to get this feeling of settling. Now we can’t play the cello like this because then we can’t get our left hand where it needs to go so that’s where things get balanced. I think what we want to do is you want to get the cello to come up and flattened but only to the point that the left hand is comfortable back here. I’m going to tell you a personal story about myself. When I was in college, Rostropovich came from the Soviet Union, that was the Soviet Union in those days, he came to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and I was going to University of Southern California and I was studying with Piatagorsky then. So all the cellists heard that this great Russian cellist was coming and we went we heard him play Sinfonia Concertante of Prokofiev that night. And I tell you he completely blew us away. He came out first of all, and he sat down like this and he had a big bent pin like that and then he was sitting back in the chair he’s going like this and nobody had ever heard a sound that big in their life, you know. So I would say inside of one year eighty percent of the students in the United States were playing on bent endpins, including myself, right. And after two years my neck and my shoulders were so tight and so sore that I couldn’t play because I had such an extreme endpin that I wound up hunching here and trying to get comfortable back here. Alright? So at that point I said, “well that might be for Rostropovich but that’s not for me,” and then I dropped it and I played for about 20 years with a straight pin. Then the Stahlhammer pin was invented, there were some others, Tortelier pin, ’cause Paul Torelier also played that way. So the Stahlhammer pin, what it did is this angle is not so extreme as the early ones, right, so it didn’t push us up and back so much. And also with this ability to lengthen and shorten here, you can really…so I found this, like, really very helpful for myself and a lot of students and now I can play…I can get the cello a little flatter, my knees are not sticking out in front of the cello because that bent pin takes the cello a little bit farther away from the body and I’m still completely comfortable down here. So now for the second half of my 50 years, last 25 years, I’ve been playing with this bent pin. In my teaching, I would say it’s maybe 50/50. I find that bigger people, longer arms, taller people, long legs, when their knees are sticking out, things like that they need the bent endpin. They’re far more comfortable. And shorter people whose arms aren’t so long don’t need it or sometimes find it a disadvantage with uh if you’re, if you’re short you can get your endpin out enough this way and get the cello flatter. But in summing up I think what, with whichever endpin you use the idea is to get the cello up and flat as possible for sound production without putting the left hand in a position where it’s uncomfortable.

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