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UpBeat Blog | Sounds of the Baroque Cello

Earlier this month I read the obituary of noted baroque cellist Judith Davidoff. I didn’t know much about her or her career but I was struck by the incredible vision and imagination she brought to her musical life. Although it was sad to hear of her passing, reading about her life and legacy was deeply inspiring.

She began her cello studies as a young girl and when she was a teenager she was introduced to the viola de gamba, an instrument that was a precursor to the cello which became popular in the late 15th Century and flourished throughout the Renaissance and Baroque period. That introduction to the viola de gamba was a turning point in her musical life.

During her career she became a member of various early music ensembles and created fascinating programs that highlighted the history of her instrument through the ages. One program she created with the Consort of Viols was called “The Road From Valencia” and featured Renaissance works by Jewish composers and viol players who, having been expelled from Spain in 1492, made their way to Italy and, in some cases, to the court of Henry VIII in England.

In addition to rediscovering older music, Davidoff had a passion for living composers and getting them to write music for the viola da gamba. In her late 60s, Ms. Davidoff earned a Ph.D. and her dissertation topic was “The Waning and Waxing of the Viol,” which included both an in-depth history of the instrument and a catalog of music written for it in the 20th century.

I wanted to share this story with you because it is an amazing reminder about the power of music. We can spend our lifetime learning, discovering and rediscovering this amazing art that is constantly challenging us and opening us up to new worlds. Like Judith Davidoff did throughout her life, find music that opens up your imagination and let it lead you on roads of discovery you may never have imagined you would explore. Whether it’s music from centuries ago or music written in NYC in 2022, its a wonderful and worthwhile trip.

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