Wilhelm Fitzenhagen was a young German cellist and composer who had taken lessons with the famous professor Friedrich Grützmacher in Dresden, and after performing at a Beethoven festival in Weimar, Franz Liszt offered him the job of principal cellist there. Simultanously Nikolai Rubinstein had tried to lure the talented Fitzenhagen to Moscow to become the cello professor at the conservatory there and in what I’d consider a very brave move, Fitzenhagen accepted the Russian offer over staying in Germany. In Moscow he became good friends with Peter I.Tchaikovsky and convinced him to write a piece for cello, the Rococo Variations. Fitzenhagen never performed them in their original version but arranged them differently, maybe to the dislike of Tchaikovsky, but for me he did such a good job in “improving” Tchaikovsky that I jumped onto the possibility to record some of Fitzenhagen’s own music when Stefan Lang from Deutschlandradio suggested it a couple of years ago. My label Hyperion loved the idea which is the reason why instead of taking the month of August completely off I had to prepare for one of the hardest recording sessions in my life with the Deutsche Sinfonieorchester under Stefan Blunier. Read the rest of this entry »
Flying to Australia is always a welcome excuse to catch up on films, getting acquainted with the newest TV shows (just watched “Dexter” for the first time), answering e-mails and writing for my so-called “blog”. The first two legs from Berlin to Copenhagen and from Copenhagen to Singapore I brought already behind me, sitting comfortably in my chair on Singapore Airlines flight 213, sipping on a tomato juice, the cello right next to me. Yes, after the accident with my bow I stopped checking my instrument into the cargo, can’t take the risk and the stress anymore – getting wiser with age or just lazier? Read the rest of this entry »
It is just such a gorgeous day in Berlin, not too hot, lovely breeze on our terrace, looking into the green of the trees, my wife
taking a nab after our intense Brahms Double rehearsal, which gives me time to fulfill my promise and write about the rather unusual little tour I did May 21 and 22.I arrived from San Francisco on May 20th, just in time to celebrate my wife’s birthday – the preparation for the Bach Suites I did during my five-day stint in San Francisco together with re-learning the Unsuk Chin Concerto; quite a pity considering the fact what fun I could have had in San Francisco instead of practicing for six hours every day… Read the rest of this entry »
I honestly can’t believe that almost five months have passed since the mishap with my bow (at Washington airport some security person broke it while examining it) and my last “blog” entry. I shouldn’t call it blog anymore, as I have never really been a blogger – much rather a public-diary-writer. The other day I read somewhere that I was even a passionate blogger, and since I absolutely hate being praised for something I am not, I felt at least I should write something within this half-year of silence, although it doesn’t make me passionate whatsoever.
Oh, I am passionate about a lot of things, probably first for my family, then music, then sports (haven’t played tennis in an eternity though, due to a sore right arm from having played ice hockey in February!), reading (books, papers, news) and cooking – but blogging is definitely not part of it. I think in order to be a passionate blogger I would have to take myself much more important, which is hard when you are fully aware of your own unimportance. Read the rest of this entry »
On February 6 a careless TSA officer at Washington DC’s international Dulles airport destroyed not only my bow, as I found out yesterday only hours before my live-radio-broadcasted concert with the National Symphony of Ireland in Dublin, but also pushed the sound-post of my Goffriller cello so strongly, that on the back of the cello one can see a brutal crack at the place where the sound-post stands inside the corpus. What had happened? Why did I only realize this two and a half weeks after the incident? And how do I dare complain about all of this as I took the risk of damaging my cello by checking it with ordinary bags? Comments indicated that some people seem to believe I deserve such an accident. Read the rest of this entry »
I am travelling internationally since almost 25 years, hopping back and fourth between continents, and as I am a rather trusting person in possession of a very strong cello case (Alan Stevenson), I am one of the few cellists who travels without an extra seat for the cello – I check my poor Goffriller with the suitcases. Twice my cello got damaged, and that was when I had a second ticket: the case fell under my supervision; nothing major, little crack which was easily be glued, but absolutely my fault. The baggage handlers never did any harm to it. Read the rest of this entry »
The busiest one and a half months in a long time with seven concerti, almost complete Beethoven Sonatas and Bach Suites were topped by my very first artist-in-residency with an orchestra. In between concert in Sevilla (Dvorak), Amsterdam (Frank Martin), Oslo (Chin), London (Schumann), Barcelona, Madrid and Valladolid (Lalo), Berlin (4 Beethoven Sonatas), Fort Worth (another Schumann) and now Hangzhou (Elgar), I flew to Portland (no, unfortunately not connected with the set of concerts in Fort Worth with the wonderful Fort Worth Symphony and a great conducting musician, Josep Caballé Domenech) to play three times the Rococo Variations plus Silent Woods by Dvorak, starting the first week of a three-year residency in this lovely city. While other orchestras have their “artist-in-residence” come several times within one year to play different pieces with the orchestra and maybe also give a recital, the idea of the Oregon Symphony and its chief conductor Carlos Kalmar was rather unique: Read the rest of this entry »
Part of my top prize at the International ARD Competition in 1990 was my Japanese debut in April 1991. I got to play a recital at Suntory Hall and the Dvorak Concerto with an orchestra in Tokyo which probably doesn’t even exist anymore (Shinsei Symphony). During my 10-day stay I had the unique chance to join a private celebration at the house of Kurt Masur’s in-laws. The director of the Goethe-Institut had invited me along, and after having met the Maestro already officially but very briefly at the price-ceremony of the other competition, I had won in 1990, the German Music Council Competition in Bonn, this time I had the rare opportunity to actually get to know this man, who had played such a crucial role in the peaceful transition not even two years earlier which resulted into the German re-unification.
Zunächst muss ich gestehen, dass ich kein besonders großer Cellofan bin. Weder habe ich viele Cello-CD’s noch spreche ich gerne übers Cello an sich. Für mich ist es vielmehr Mittel zum Zweck, und dieser heiligt bekanntermaßen die Mittel. Der Zweck? Musikmachen, und zwar so oft, impulsiv, intensiv wie nur möglich. Wenn ich jetzt über die Gründe der Cellobegeisterung spreche, sehe ich mich also in gewisser Weise als Außenstehender, da ich mich außer beim Üben wenig mit dem Instrument beschäftige. Read the rest of this entry »
This might have been the laziest summer I have had in my entire life, and it felt sooo good! Directly after my two-week-stint in Colorady with my son János I did a bit of teaching in the beautiful city of Weimar. My first Meisterkurs ever, five days of giving lessons to the same people, quite a challenge: normally I gave little masterclasses of three hours, where I could spread my “wisdom” to a couple of youngsters and then take off. This time I was forced to see the lovely cellists every day and check if what I had told them made any sense and had any impact. It was rewarding but also frightening as at some point I started doubting everything I wanted to tell them. When I perform I am very sure of what I want to say with the music, but in teaching I don’t want the students to say what I am saying, I want them to develop their own voice, but it is easier said than done… Read the rest of this entry »