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By Jonathan C. Kramer
On the morning of May 13, 2011, Bernard Greenhouse left us to join the cello pantheon he was always a part of, almost reaching the age of his great mentor Casals. He continued to play and teach well into his 90s, opening his Cape Cod home to students from all over the world, sharing his profound gifts with a legendary generosity. It was this generosity and greatness of spirit that made him such a singularly remarkable performer, gaining the very highest pinnacle of his art, uniquely, in a career centered largely on ensemble playing and teaching. His aim was constantly to shape and articulate a musical phrase in order to convey to the listener its beauty and meaning convincingly; not to impress, but to communicate a clear artistic intention, like a great stage actor. "The bow and the fingers of the left hand must work together," he taught, unifying all the cellist's technical resources toward the expression of each note and gesture. Thus, perhaps more than any cellist of his time, he was able to draw his audiences into his sound world, first seducing with the lush beauty of his singular tone and then conveying heart to heart the profound, tender, human, and transcendent language of music with unsurpassed clarity through mastery of the instrument. In the same way, he drew students to himself. His power of communication was such that he could brilliantly illuminate and minutely examine a phrase with the student through the powerful lens of his enormous musical sensitivity and intellect.
He taught that complete dedication to the art of cello playing could form the core of a beautiful life. He continued to practice right up until the end of his days, days that brimmed with sociability and the love of all that makes life rich: home, family, friends, food, drink, the sea, the city, the world; and music.
Throughout his career, he acknowledged and honored his own teachers: Felix Salmond, Emanuel Feuermann, Diran Alexanian, and most of all Pablo Casals. He formed a link connecting the cellists of the post-war generation and three generations thereafter to the great Romantic tradition of expressive artistry of the late nineteenth century. And he brought honor to his teachers and the tradition they represented by so steadfastly and uncompromisingly perpetuating their legacy.
He leaves behind so many students - many hundreds - who themselves are passing on this great legacy to their students; it can be assured, for generations to come, that the noble art that he so fully embodied and capably taught will continue to beautify the world with the communicative power of the instrument he so loved.
So thank you, Bernie. You remained among us for so long, after so many of your loved ones, friends, colleagues, and peers had passed beyond our world; and yet you left us too soon. Your life was like a great lighthouse beacon, there on that Northern shore, illuminating the night.
Jonathan C. Kramer, Ph.D.
Advisory Board, Greenhouse Cello Foundation
PS Visit my nephew Alexander Kramer's Facebook tribute page "Cellist Bernard Greenhouse" at
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_254063343307. (Facebook login required.)