I am currently in Berlin for an lengthy sojourn, sans cello!, so this will be a text-only entry. A word about extensions. Be clear about the definition and purpose of an extension in your left hand. Too often when I query even well-schooled cellists about their perception of extensions, the reply is general and vague. A hand that does not experience the concept of balance in extension will be a hand rife with tension, sometimes to the degree of feeling “paralyzed” in difficult passages. The most common misunderstanding results from the belief that “extension” means “stretch” between all fingers, and/or particularly a stretch of the 4th finger. This misconception creates extreme stress in the hand.
As a basic fundamental position, extension implies increasing the distance between the 1st and 2nd finger by one half-step. We have two types of extensions, forward, and backward. The two types refer to our transportation into the position, not the resultant position. On a forward extension, the weight pivots on the tip of the first finger down to approximately a 45º angle, and the arm, thumb, and and rest of fingers drop one half-step. The distance between the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers remain in half-steps. For a backward extension, the arm drops forward and down by one half-step, and the tip of the first finger points backward toward the ear. The resulting “extended” positions will be identical whether they be forward or backwad. BUT, the hand must always be aware of an impending extension and properly prepare it in order to maintain a balanced, ie. relaxed position.
The importance of a good understanding of extension in a balanced hand can NOT be over-estimated. Extended position is FUNDAMENTAL to a well-structured, relaxed technique. Check back in September for a demonstration video of these concepts.