For the 30th time, one of New Haven’s musical events of the year will bring a flood of cellos onstage—amid a swirl of color.
The occasion is the annual Yale Cellos concert at Sprague Hall (470 College St.), which takes place Wednesday at 8 p.m. It’s an exceptional event for two reasons.
Reason one: You rarely hear cellos, and only cellos, loads of cellos, filling a hall with their soulful baritones, and nowhere else under the direction of Aldo Parisot, the vivacious 91-year-old world-renowned cellist-turned-director of Yale’s cello program. (Click on the play arrow for a sample from a previous year’s concert.)
Reason two: Parisot, who took up painting as a “hobby” four decades into his career, fills the hall with his colorful works for the concert. Works like the one pictured at the top of this story. This year, instead of hanging the paintings on the walls, Sprague will project them on a big screen.
The juxtaposition offers an insight into the genius of a man who approaches music and painting differently. Unlike his approach to music, Parisot learned not to learn the basic rules of painting, diving simply into improvisation each time he faces a canvas. He nevertheless mines the two mediums’ common thread: color.
“Painting is like music,” Parisot said in an interview before a rehearsal for Wednesday night’s concert. “Music is full of color. Music is not black and white. Nature is not black and white.
“I dream in color. Color is everything for me. I dream in color all the time. No black and white.”
Parisot’s father died when he was 4. A year later his mother married a professional cellist, Thomazzo Babini. Aldo begged his stepfather to teach him cello; he had to study music for two years before Babini agreed to take on his stepson as a cello student. By 12, Parisot was playing concerts “in short pants.” He eventually was touring the world as a master cellist and playing with leading musicians and conductors. Then in the late 1980s he decided he’d had enough with airports and hotel rooms and a life on the road; he turned his attention to teaching full-time at Yale—and bringing his stepfather’s exacting standards to generations of new cellists.
Aren’t we lucky.
“I hated [Babini’s] guts” for driving him so hard during those childhood lessons, Parisot said. “But today I thank him what he taught me. Perfection. He made me like this. I want perfection in my students. I don’t believe in number two. I believe in number one only.”