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Breathing, sitting with a straight back, and maintaining the flexibility of the wrist (i.e., of the right hand, which holds the bow and produces the sound) as well as the correct balance of the bow, where the slightest angle or amount of weight that is brought to bear affects the strings - these constitute the "engine" of playing the cello. They create the instrument's sound and are responsible for its strength and beauty. As for the fingers of the left hand: They are the soul of the playing. With them you touch the strings and determine the volume of the sound and therefore the musical phrasing; it is these fingers that quickly and gently produce the vibrato that enriches the sound. In order to coordinate between right and left, between the physical aspect of the sound and its spirit, and thus create a musical work, you have to invest an entire life of rigorous lonely, daily practice, for hours on end, beginning from early childhood - otherwise there is no point.

"Raising" string players is hard work that takes years and, not surprisingly, involves following a meticulous plan. Some will call this process "conservative," a term that's not used for training in individual sports, for example, like tennis or swimming, although developing a person's talent as a virtuoso string player is similar, to a point, to training outstanding athletes. There is a path you must follow, including exercises and a distinct repertory - solo, chamber and orchestra - with unparalleled discipline.

This doesn't suit everyone. Indeed, many string players turn to avant-garde contemporary music or ancient baroque music to escape the rigors of the classical world and to express themselves in a different style. Others, mainly violinists, such as fusion violinist Jerry Goodman ("The Flock"), stars Vanessa Mae or Nigel Kennedy, turn to jazz, rock or pop. Violinists have a higher sounding, agile instrument; they can move onstage, dance and use visual effects. But cellists, with their instrument characterized by low sounds, are stuck in a chair: The nature of the instrument, and its clumsiness, make it difficult for them to become rock or pop players. Yo-Yo Ma came from such a world, and evinced adventurousness by crossing the lines into light music, somewhat like Yehudi Menuhin before him.

The cello really is a multipurpose instrument in pop: It can play the bass line or the main melody, and can also add a more serious and balanced dimension to light music, add to the emotion and depth that it lacks, or enrich its limited colors. Still, it is hard to believe that women cellists, in spite of their extra-musical stage potential, will ever truly become the main characters in these realms.