Dazzling Cello Virtuoso

Gloria Magazine
July 2009
Text: Eeva Louko
Photo: Ilpo Vainionpää

Artist of the Month: Dazzling Cello Virtuoso

Cellist Seeli Toivio is dazzling and talented. Refined looks and a personal way of handling the instrument are her trademarks.

Seeli Toivio won’t get unrecognized when on stage. Long curls, colorful evening gowns and radiant smile will melt the audience. Toivio’s philosophy is that she doesn’t go on stage wearing black or her hair pinned in a dull way.

– I think the audience appreciates that the show is fantastic also visually. Abroad the artists dress far more braver and greatly than in Finland, the 33-year-old cellist says.

The looks are forgotten for a minute when Toivio concentrates on playing. Toivio, you see, is an especially fast and technically skilled cellist.
The secret of the fast playing is Toivio’s own special left hand technique. The traditional way is to press down the strings of the cello, but Toivio plays by pulling the strings toward her left palm. Also the positioning of the cello in her lap is different than usual: it rests a bit lower and in an oblique position.

– This technique and playing position have always felt as normal as breathing. In traditional position a huge pressure is formed in the arm. By resting the cello and the left arm in a low position the muscles of the hand stay relaxed.

Graduated as Master of Music from Sibelius Academy and Royal Academy of Music, Toivio is currently working on thesis about the development of the left hand cello technique from 18th century to modern days.

In her examination concerts Toivio performs e.g. the works by Adrien-François Servais which are considered extremely difficult technically. Servais was a Belgian, 19th century composer, who concentrated on composing virtuoso cello works. Toivio also calls herself a virtuoso cellist, because she is concetrated on solo works without dreaming of orchestra musicianship.

– I have also lectured about my technique. That would interest me in the future as well, Toivio says.

Toivio, who has also recorded and performed abroad, often cello arrangements of plays violin virtuoso works in her concerts. Her repertoire also includes cello works from the 21st century. On the CD published in May, Salut D’Amour, she performs well-known cello works with harpist Lily-Marlene Puusepp.

– Even though my repertoire consists of music from baroque to modern days, my favorite period is romanticism of 19th century. The works from that period talk me in a special way. Maybe I’m just such a romantic person, Toivio laughs.

Seeli Toivio performs at Aino Ackté House on July 1st, at Helsinki Organ Festival on July 16th, and at the Emäsalo Music Festival on July 22nd. More information from www.seelitoivio.com.

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