Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Swan Lake and Tosca

Many, many years ago, in fact, in 1957, I had a lesson with Leonard Rose on an important cello solo which I was to play as principal cellist of the All-City High School Orchestra of New York in Carnegie Hall. After he demonstrated for me the possibilities that I never dreamed about, and then showed me how he figured it out, he said “No one can absolutely guarantee that a performance will go the way that you want it to, BUT there are many things you can do to put the odds in your favor.”

Eleven years later, I was sitting in a hotel room in Cincinnati, Ohio, with the music to the Second Act Swan Lake solo. Fortunately for me, I had done a long tour which featured Swan Lake with the Royal Ballet featuring Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn as assistant principal cellist. The principal cellist, Albert Cattell, was an excellent cellist who was not shy about the way he played the opening cadenza. He used many separate bows and lots of vibrato.

I set up the opening for myself in the following way: The first three notes are “E-Flat, D-Flat, and C-Flat. C-Flat doesn’t exist in my mind. However, B-Natural is immediately apparent for me, so the first conversion was to change the “C-Flat” in my mind to a “B-Natural. . On the eighth note rest before the initial “E-Flat,” I played a silent “D-Flat” before the “E-Flat” which definitely helped me make the entrance. The other fingerings and bowings for this opening are included here along with the original slurs that I totally discounted. For the main body of the fingerings, which are included, I figured out for myself how it could be the most comfortable and sure of the intonation from one note to the next. I figured this out note by note, and in 30 years afterwards, I never changed any of it, except for one thing. Eventually, I played the “E-Flat” and the “D-Flat” on the D String and crossed over to the A String for the “C-Flat,” now named “B-Natural.” This decision improved my life.)

I was rewarded right away when the review in the Cincinnati Inquirer said, “Daniel Morganstern’s solo cello passages in Act II added greatly to the luminous beauty of the duo-dances.” A few weeks later, at the end of the tour, I got a call at 10 o’clock in the morning in Chicago from a stentorian voice on the other end saying “I am Carol Fox, general manager of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. I heard you play the solos in Swan Lake last night, and I need a solo cellist for my orchestra. I think you’re it. Will you come and play for me at 12 o’clock?” I said, “Yes, but no Strauss and no Wagner at such an early hour.” Long and short, I played and I got the job, which I kept for 44 years.

Also Swan Lake for the next 35 at the American Ballet Theatre in New York.

The famous solo from Tosca came into my life sometime in May/June of 1967. I got a call from Rudy Pulitz (former principal horn of the Cleveland Orchestra and New York Philharmonic) asking me to play the next day for Sarah Caldwell who was forming a touring opera company and that she would definitely want to hear the solo from Tosca. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the solo from Tosca, so I called my friend Bob Gardner Principal Cellist of the New York City Opera and ask him if he could sing it for me over the phone so I could copy it down. He did, and an hour later I played it through for him to make sure I had it right. It never occurred to me that you were supposed to play this solo all on the A String, jumping up and down like a seek and destroy mission. So, I learned it with the fingerings that I have put in the document below. I never bothered to change that either, and it worked year after year both in Sarah Caldwell’s opera company and at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The only change I made in the first part was to play it coming down the D String so that I could cross over for the “F-Sharp” on the A String without interrupting the motion of the phrase.