Like the violin and viola, the cello is also made of wood and is played by drawing a bow across its four strings (C, G, D, and A) or plucking the strings with a finger. Much larger than its smaller cousins, the cello is played while sitting, with the body of the instrument placed between the legs of the player.
Did you know?
In order to better hold up the instrument, the player extends a long piece of pointed metal called an “endpin” into the floor, stabilizing the instrument.
The two first excerpts, from the Miraculous Mandarin by Béla Bartók and the Symphony No. 6 by Tchaikovsky show two contrasting roles of the cello section: one very rhythmic, the other, lyric. In the last excerpt, from La Mer, composed by Claude Debussy, the cello section plays “divisi”, meaning that it divides into multiple sections, each playing a different melodic line. Can you hear the timpani roll in the beginning of the excerpt?
The Miraculous Mandarin
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique”: II. Allegro con grazia
La Mer: I. De l'aube à midi sur la mer