‘Cellists are rarely selfish’

‘Cellists are rarely selfish’


norman lebrecht

January 01, 2017

From an interview with Natalie Clein:


‘It’s a cliché that the cello is the closest any man-made instrument comes to the human voice, but true. The range of notes is much the same. And whenever I work with singers – as I will during the (Kings Place, London) “Unwrapped” season – I always feel that my bowing arm is related to the way the singer breathes.

‘Of course I’m biased, but I think this human quality is the reason why composers are often inspired to write their most heartfelt music for us. For virtuosity they go to the violin, but for sincerity it’s the cello.

‘We truly are social creatures – partly, I think, because we’re collaborative by nature. We’re used to playing bass lines, which means we’re conscious of structure and how we fit into it. You rarely find a selfish cellist: we’re a good thing, on the whole”.


  • Bruce says:

    I think I have heard someone claim that almost every instrument is the one “closest to the human voice” at some time or another. (Just ask a trombonist) So whatever.

    I have noticed, though, that the lower the instrument, the nicer the person. There are always exceptions, but in general I’ve found that bassoonists tend to be nicer than flute players, trombonists are nicer than trumpet players, and yes, cellists tend to be nicer than violinists (although not quite as nice as bass players). Just my experience, purely anecdotal and, as I said, with exceptions.

    • Brian Hughes says:

      I’ve always felt that violinists are much too high-strung.

    • Wai Kit Leung says:

      A large proportion of the trumpet players I played with were not nice people, to put it mildly. I wonder if the personality gravitates towards an instrument, or playing the instrument shapes one’s personality?

      • Bruce says:

        I’ve noticed the same thing and wondered about it. I don’t suppose asking a trumpet player would help 😛

        P.S. What is this “you are submitting comments too fast” nonsense? First attempt since yesterday.

        • Wai Kit leung says:

          Bruce, I am sure you wouldn’t want a trumpet mob bearing down on you, would you?

          • Bruce says:

            I had one threaten to “beat the shit out of” me once. That was enough. I’m still not sure why. We seem to be friendly enough now though, so I guess everything is OK.

  • Jo Bowman says:

    I think it’s that the larger the instrument you have to carry, the nicer you are.