The Rice Brothers (Chris, cello; Johnny, piano) play the Haydn Cello Concerto in C, third movement

Click here for the higher-visual-quality version of this video!

Franz Joseph Haydn is three generations back, on our “teacherly tree,” from Franz Liszt, making “Papa Joe” our great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandteacher. So far, he’s better known for writing “The Haydn C,” which is what many people call his Cello Concerto in C, than he is for being part of our teacherly line… <smile>

We just love the piece, and our audiences seem to love it, too! Probably this is at least partly because of Papa Joe’s sense of humor! I mean, he writes things which are amazingly beautiful, and which really let a musician “show off” what she or he can do, technically speaking. This latter is called being “virtuosic.” If we musicians don’t demonstrate some degree of virtuosity in our playing, members of our audiences … if anyone is willing to listen to us at all … tend to doze off, and maybe even snore. Except infants and other very young children, who aren’t likely to doze off, but often start screaming. As they should. (Adults are usually too inhibited to start screaming. But not always…) Music which is played in a boring way is bad. Music which is played in a thrilling or otherwise spectacularly engaging way is good. (And yes, we realize we’re taking a risk here. We know that, if our playing doesn’t make your heart sing with joy, and your soul soar, well, you may “light up” this post’s “comments” section. <gulp> But! That’s one of the advantages to our putting video-recordings of our playing on the net. Unlike what might happen if we were to play our music “live” for you, if you’re watching our playing on the net, and it’s so boring that it makes you, and/or your children, scream … well, we probably won’t hear you! <smile>)

Just about all serious cellists, we’re guessing, eventually get around to playing “The Haydn C.” Being a concerto, it was written to be played by a cello soloist who is accompanied by an orchestra. The thing is… Well, while many of us play the piece, we’d be surprised if even one cellist in a hundred ever plays it with an orchestra, even taking into account community orchestras, university ensembles, etc. Of course, “The Haydn C” mostly gets played during a cellist’s practice sessions, without any accompaniment. <smile> But lots and lots of us, from time to time, get to play it with a pianist, who plays what’s called an “orchestral reduction” … which means that someone has taken the time to put the sounds which were composed for the orchestra into an arrangement which can be played by two hands on a piano. Probably thousands of young cellists, all over the world, perform this piece every year at competitions, recitals, and at various non-orchestral performances. (We’ve done that in the past, and it’s become a staple of our current performances for a wide variety of audiences.) In such settings, the piece is almost always played with a piano accompanist, as it is in the video which we’ve embedded into this post.

But, uhm, back to Papa Joe and his sense of humor… Papa Joe was hired by a Prince, a looong time ago, to write music, and to direct groups of musicians in the playing of that music. Now, this particular Prince, like so many people nowadays, often fell asleep during orchestral performances. He was even able to do this when the musicians were playing wonderfully, and other people in the audience were wide awake and thrilled with the playing. So Papa Joe deliberately wrote music which “set the Prince up.” He had his musicians play something soothing, which softly lulled the poor Prince into the deepest sleep possible, and then Papa Joe had the musicians suddenly blast something out which was loud and unexpected, which caused the Prince to awaken with a terribly sudden start. I mean, Papa Joe did this on purpose! (The piece is known by its nickname, the “Surprise” Symphony!) To understand and fully appreciate Papa Joe’s music, you sort of have to know this about him. Papa Joe once said, “Since God has given me a cheerful heart, He will forgive me for serving Him cheerfully.” (Do you have a cheerful heart, or do you have friends who have cheerful hearts? If so, well, then, you know how delightful such people can be. But you probably also know that it’s not a bad idea to keep your eyes on these folks. More often than not, they can be practical jokers and pranksters, and Papa Joe certainly demonstrated these tendencies, including in his music!)

Many musicians think that Papa Joe’s compositions should be played like Mozart’s compositions, that each phrase should be finished in a tidy way, and the musician should take a little breath, and maybe curtsey, before starting in on the next musical thought. But the way in which Papa Joe’s musical thoughts follow one another is often more like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Right in the middle of a perfectly good musical thought, Papa Joe can suddenly veer off, musically speaking, in an unexpected direction. So his music is like humor which makes us laugh because something takes a funny and abrupt turn, and goes somewhere we didn’t expect it to go. (Concerning the way in which Mozart’s music should be performed “versus” the way in which Papa Joe’s music should be performed, we tip our hats to our piano teacher, Robert Hamilton, who is deeply knowledgeable on the subject, and makes the case for different approaches in a compelling and fascinating way. We’re hoping he’ll publish about this, as it would benefit many people and performances!)

Anyway… Like we said, we love Papa Joe’s music. And we hope you enjoy the video of our playing of “The Haydn C!”

Oh… One other thing… Kids, early-on, when they’ve started to study an instrument, should never be held to a standard which requires them to be virtuosic. (You’d probably be amazed at the number of people who tell us that they quit playing music at a very young age because their parents concluded that they lacked talent. Their parents would say things like, “My kid ain’t no Horowitz.” Well DUH! Their parents were thinking of the way Horowitz, or some other virtuoso, played at age 40 or 50. For whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to occur to such parents to wonder how Horowitz sounded when he was 6 or 8 years old! At that age, Horowitz was, in fact, on the road to becoming a spectacular musician … but he still played like a kid!) Virtuosity, if we’re Blessed with such a thing, almost always comes with time. If you’re a parent, and you have youngsters who have been playing instruments for a while, it’s your job to find beauty in what your children are playing, even if your first reaction, on a given day, is that their playing may make your spine fall out. And you can’t stop there! You’ve got to tell them how beautiful their playing is, and how moved you are by it, and how Blessed you feel to have the privilege of listening to them, and you’ve got to thank them a lot. If you don’t do those things, well, you’re not doing your job as a parent in a virtuosic way! Parenting in a gorgeous way is of course its own form of beautiful music, and it can most definitely instill into your child’s heart the desire to play a musical instrument in a truly special way. That’s why they called him “Papa” Joe, by the way … not because of the beauty of his music, but because of the beautiful way in which he interacted with others. The beauty of his music grew from that soil. [And for you kids who are reading this… Keep in mind that it’s at least as difficult to learn to parent in a virtuosic way as it is to learn to play an instrument in a virtuosic way, and both art forms involve a pretty steep “learning curve!” So cut your parents some slack, and remember The Golden Rule … it’s your job to encourage them to develop their parenting skills in the same way you want them to encourage you in developing your musical skills! Work as hard as you can to play your music beautifully, so your Mom and Dad can concentrate on becoming the best possible parents, without being distracted by a fear that your playing will make their spines fall out.<smile>]

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  1. Comment by Nathan Larson:

    Bravo! BRAVO! BRAISMO! This is am amazing piece and a beautiful video of you both playing! I listened and watched in shock and awe the amount of skill that you both possess and this flawless performance (though I am sure you are sitting there recalling all the errors that you made) to me it was beyond perfection! I am very impressed! Along with the wondrous music, the setting was very well ornate and fitting to the Hayden piece performed. I enjoyed the background and the position of the camera angle and of Johnny and Chris. The only comment I would have for improvement would only be a suggestion. I think that adding other camera angles and editing the piece together would enhance the workmanship of the piece and the great skill it takes in playing it. For an example, a close up of Chris

    Posted on April 8, 2008 @ 9:36 pm
  2. Comment by Johnny:

    Nathan, thank you so much for taking the time to “check out” our new videoblog, and, my goodness, thank you very much for the compliments! Your kind words mean a great deal to us, particularly because we’re aware of the high degree of artistry in your life! (For y’all who might read Nathan’s comments … in addition to being a valued friend, Nathan is someone we greatly admire as an accomplished actor, singer and musician … not to mention the beautiful music in his life which doesn’t involve instruments and the like, such as the wonderful charitable work he’s been doing. The non-profit which Chris and I have been in the process of establishing, Young Musicians in Service to America, hopes to encourage youth, broadly, to do exactly the sorts of things which Nathan has been doing!)

    As to your suggestion about different camera angles… We’ve gone back and forth on this subject. It’s been a “pet peeve” of ours, for the longest time, that, when we watch music being played, especially by wonderful classical musicians, and we’re right in the middle of being totally engaged with some aspect which has caught our eye, the camera angle suddenly changes, and the object of our interest gets ripped away from us! The effect is that the video editors take away our vote! So, our choice has been to set it up so that our viewers can decide what they want to watch, without our interrupting them. (This approach re-creates the experience people have when they’re sitting right in the room when we’re playing. Hmmm… Well, actually, that would be most people, who sit still during the playing … there have been people who hop up and come right over to the piano, and change their angle of view in the process!) In any case… All of us who have watched TV and movies for years are accustomed to multiple camera angles. Chris and I understand that our approach is a bit radical, and that it may be jarring to some people. We figured that our viewers would let us know whether we should change our policy. (But, heh, we didn’t expect the subject to come up quite this quickly! )

    Thank you for your mention that you’d rate our video “a five out of five!” I must say, that makes me wish that we had some clue as to how to put a rating system onto our site. Speaking of which… If you, or other viewers, would like to rate our videos, you can do so at YouTube. The “Haydn” video you’ve commented on is located at:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=N58dTJanSpU

    We just made it public on YouTube, and I don’t think it’s been rated by anyone yet, so you can be the first!

    By the way… Did you watch the Haydn video on the home page of the videoblog (it’s the YouTube version, which we’ve embedded because it’s easy for most people to download), or did you find your way to the “higher video quality” version?

    Thank you again for commenting on the video. As you may or may not have noticed, yours is the first comment which has been made anywhere on our site (well, except for one spammer, who has now been banned after he made several attempts to post gunk into our FORUM). Very auspicious, we feel, that you’re the first to comment!

    Posted on April 9, 2008 @ 3:31 am
  3. Comment by Sarah B:

    Wow. It’s so amazing to hear you guys play again. Even though I *much* prefer the live performances I’ve heard. ;)

    And I see that the writing style runs in the family (and you all tell *me* *I* talk a lot!).

    I miss ya’ll.

    Oh, and do I get some sort of credit as being the second person to comment? (Just kidding.)

    Posted on April 29, 2008 @ 8:07 pm
  4. Comment by JeremIah:

    Stunning! I stumbled across this and it made my day. What a fantastic performance. I look forward to more.

    Posted on May 6, 2008 @ 10:17 pm
  5. Comment by Jeanne:

    Another milestone in sharing yourselves! I acknowledge and am grateful you have this interactive blog up and I look forward to more of your works being shared….such as the stellar off the chart—-showing up 100%— Johnny, playing Rhapsody in Blue—today with the Mesa Symphony. I love being a part of your inspiring lives and being drawn into a circle of tremendous gifts of talent.

    Posted on May 10, 2008 @ 5:40 pm
  6. Comment by Caitlin W:

    I believe I heard you two play this in your livingroom, about 2 or 3 years ago.
    That evening still stands out in my mind as something a bit magical.

    Posted on July 15, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

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