In all the experimenting I've been doing on my modern cello over the past few months, I have to say that different strings really do play differently. Some are twangy on pizz where others "bloom," some will really play rich, full, and loud over the entire range of the string but don't like to respond to soft, intimate strokes, while others are just the opposite. I have always been of the school of "make the most of what it does today" playing, adjusting my bow approach to whatever the cello seems to be in the mood for this day rather than running to the luthier for an adjustment. I usually get my cello adjusted only if I've had an accident. The first luthier I knew, David Caron back in Dallas in the late 60s/early 70s, had a sign on his door that said, "if you are here for a soundpost adjustment, turn around, go home, and practice." While it was meant in jest, there is a kernel of truth, sometimes we look for solutions that we don't need. So, I adjust.

With sometimes radically different strings on the cello every week (the range of response from the Perpetual variations: Medium, Strong, Soloist, and low-tension Cadenza) makes for a lot of adjusting in approach. Then there are all of the emotions we carry with us into a performance of such a great and beautiful work as the Brahms you played; it can be challenging to separate or release all of these things and just live in the moment, especially as we must essay them despite the changing seasons, or when we are tired at the end of the semester/concert season/tour, etc., and of course, our comparison of reality with our mentally projected idealization of what these works should sound like.

Along these lines, it is kinda funny to me that despite the very different sound and response of strings I've been demonstrating, they don't end up sounding nearly as different from each other as I expected. I suspect that is partly because I have a habit of adjusting the variables of the bow use to the mood of the instrument. They feel very different, but the the results are more subtle in sound. Pizz is perhaps more obvious, as the bow is not involved, but even then, I find I pluck in different parts of the string and with different force and direction, depending on how it reacts, trying to get the sound I have in my mind's ear.

As to the modern instrument and irregular/asymmetric bowings in the baroque, I have always liked these bowings. Partly because I played with a group that did lots of Bach Cantatas when I was a teenager (now so many years ago!), so to me these are natural. I have always hated the romantic edition of such music into smooth tone with silly sewing-machine regularity of bowing. Take the great G pedal-point section of the C Major Suite Prelude, for example. Since I was 20 or so, I have bowed this as all of the extant manuscript editions give it, 3+1 articulation. To me this is very natural musically, if somewhat challenging in practice. It requires different bow distribution, weight, and speed of every note, but when it works, it has a clarity and energy that no other articulation can achieve. Possibly easier to accomplish on a true baroque instrument, but that is something I have never experienced. It works for me because I worked on it as it is. Adjusting as I go. Not sure that there is a "great" cello out there, a good set up, a flexible technique, and a healthy portion of good fortune at the moment is perhaps the best we can hope for.