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.
I had promised myself to start writing more often again but couldn’t keep my own promise. Also I wanted to loose weight and learn Bulgarian which I haven’t managed. Self-discipline, the highest virtue for me because I have so little of it, and the happier I am the more difficult it seems to “stick to the plan”. What to do? Be unhappy and self-disciplined? Not raise the bar up too high? Or just take little steps and do one thing at the time? Yes, this is what I am doing right now; instead of practicing for next week’s duo-concerts with my fiancÃ©e in Cologne and Hamburg I start writing this blog entry in my hotel room in the city of Portland!
Nach Konzerten in Spanien kommt man meistens eher spÃ¤t ins Bett. ZunÃ¤chst fangen musikalische Veranstaltungen offiziell erst um 20h30 oder sogar 22h30 an, und zwar bestimmt nicht pÃ¼nktlich, dann sind die ZuhÃ¶rer und Orchestermitglieder weniger scheu, nach dem Konzert noch mit dem vÃ¶llig durchgeschwitzten Cellisten (in diesem Falle stand Â Prokofiev’s Monster-Cellosinfonie auf dem Programm, also FlÃ¼ssigkeiten im Ãœberfluss….) Ã¼ber alle mÃ¶glichen und unmÃ¶glichen Dinge zu sprechen, und schlussendlich gibt es insbesondere in StÃ¤dten am Meer (in meinem Falle La Coruna) groÃŸartige Restaurants, in denen dann zu spÃ¤tester Stunde (ab Mitternacht) noch meeresfrÃ¼chtelnde Festmahle mit frÃ¶hlich sprudelnder Weinquelle unmÃ¶glich vermieden werden kÃ¶nnen, da man die groÃŸzÃ¼gigen Gastgeber nicht vor den Kopf stossen mÃ¶chte; nur nebenbei sei erwÃ¤hnt, dass es gerade diese spÃ¤tabendlichen kulinarischen AktivitÃ¤ten sind, die mich bei Konzertangeboten aus Spanien ohne zu ZÃ¶gern immer zusagen lassen 🙂 Hinzu kommt, dass die QualitÃ¤t der Orchester in den letzten Jahren derart gewachsen ist, dass diese sich auch vor verwÃ¶hnten deutschen Ohren Ã¼berhaupt nicht verstecken mÃ¼ssen, ganz im Gegenteil. Selten ertÃ¶nte die beliebte “Peter-und-der-Wolf”-Blech-Stelle im letzten Satz derart klangschÃ¶n und prÃ¤zise wie gestern in La Coruna. Um 2h20 Uhr fiel ich todmÃ¼de nach einem langen Tag (vormittags hatte ich noch im 80km entfernten Santiago de Compostela eine fÃ¼nfstÃ¼ndige Masterclass gegeben) ins Bett, nur um drei Stunden spÃ¤ter schon wieder aufstehen zu dÃ¼rfen, fÃ¼r den Flieger, der mich in HerrgottsfrÃ¼he zurÃ¼ck in die Heimat fliegen sollte – was tut man nicht alles, um mit dem einzigen Sohn noch am Nachmittag ins Kino gehen zu kÃ¶nnen.
Auf dem Zwischenstop in Madrid fand ich noch schnell die Zeit, einen Fragenkatalog des Orchestre Suisse Romande aus Genf via E-Mail zu beantworten. Frage Nr.11 hatte es mir besonders angetan: One musical project. Â Ich wÃ¼rde am liebsten das Wort “Projekt” zum Unwort im Zusammenhang mit Musik erklÃ¤ren. An dem Wort per se ist ja nichts auszusetzen, allein was sich dahinter verbirgt ist oft derart vordergrÃ¼ndiges Interessantmachen ansonsten oft vÃ¶llig uninteressanter Musiker, die es nicht schaffen, in der Musik etwas auszusagen, es nun aber mit Hilfe einer meist ziemlich unsubtilen Geschichte wett zu machen versuchen, so dass auch ein Tauber versteht, mit welch’ auÃŸerordentlichem musikalischen Genie er es zu tun hat.
FÃ¼r mich ist dies ein weiterer Beweis dafÃ¼r, wie sehr die klassische-Musik-Szene versucht, sich sehr zu ihrem Nachteil an der Pop-Szene zu orientieren, wo ja die Verpackung weit mehr zÃ¤hlt als irgendeine musikalische Aussage, was aber dort wenigstens offen zugestanden wird, wÃ¤hrend bei “uns” dem ahnungslosen Publikum ein tieferer Sinn vorgeheuchelt wird, wo eigentlich nur gÃ¤hnende Leere klafft. Â Di selbst ernannten “Macher” glauben damit die klassische Musik zu retten, und eine Projekt- und somit in gewisser Weise auch Eventgeilheit des allgemeinen Klassikpublikums kann man bei bestem Willen nicht verleugnen. Frage bleibt nur, ob die Musik dadurch gerettet wird oder eher auf der Strecke bleibt. Steigende CD-Verkaufszahlen gehen einher mit einer schleichende VerkÃ¼mmerung der subtileren HÃ¶r- und RezeptionsfÃ¤higkeit. Wie man dem entgegen arbeiten kann? Projekte mit musikalischem Inhalt? Gute Idee, ich werde mal Ã¼ber so ein Projekt nach […]
Concerts in Spain promise a very late night, because first of all they start officially at 20h30 or even 22h45, often not too punctual. After the performance members of audience and orchestra appear to be less shy than elsewhere to talk to the sweaty cellist (in this specific case Prokofiev’s gigantic Cellosymphony on the program, body fluids in abundanceâ€¦) about more or less everything between stolen cellos and pulpo for at least another half hour, before one finally moves either with the entourage of the Maestro (as yesterday with lovely Jesus Lopez-Cobos) or some orchestra members into one of the Spanish coastal town’s delicious restaurants.
My father is one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever come across. Since more or less 50 years he has tought the violin, starting at the tender age of 17, and now, after retiring from playing in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for 43 years, he will still have his students at the UdK in Berlin as well as his work with the German Youth Orchestra to make a smooth transition into full retirement (as if this would ever happenâ€¦). His dedication and enthusiasm for teaching has made a very big impression on me with a very funny affect: I love to teach, and I grab any possibility of a masterclass to teach – nevertheless because of my father’s dedication I refuse to take a teaching position. I would not be able to fulfill it with the same responsability and care he has shown and which I am convinced is necessary; students seek and need a lot of attention and help, and with me travelling extensively and trying to be as dedicated a father as I can be, I know some of the three things (family, playing, teaching) if not all three would suffer.
This said it might explain why I agreed to accept to teach two masterclasses and play two concerts in two rather different cities within 34 hours this passed weekend: on Saturday I tought four (highly gifted) cellists from the New World Symphony from 11am-2pm in Miami Beach, playedÂ the same evening the second concert of our Haydn D Major, flew Sunday very early (after a delightful late-night party with the young players of this highly inspiring orchestra – their Brahms IV had great passion and emotion in a way of a youth orchestra, but with the perfection of a professional group) to Montreal, rehearsed with Cecile Licad and played an afternoon recital, attended the reception afterwards and then tought 4 students of Matt Haimowitz from 7-9pm.
To be honest I feel rather inadequate at teaching; I know that I can analyze technical problems very well, and because of the excellent teachers I had (especially Markus Nyikos in Berlin) I can also explain and solve them. But as soon as it comes to music I feel much less able to help the players. Different reasons: first of all I don’t really like any kind of pretentious talk about music – using metaphors and images which sound good in theory and might make the teacher look good don’t really help the student much, at least in my experience. Well, let me rephrase it: I have heard numerous times empty musical comments from teachers, conductors and musicians in my life that I have become a bit allergic against meaningless images. But there are some who are masters in using them, and I have greatest respect when somebody manages to put a musical thought into words in a way, that a gifted student (or orchestra musician) can actually change the way he or her plays a certain phrase.
“What a passionate performance! You must be a very passionate man?” was the question (in French, oh mon Dieuâ€¦) in a radio interview during intermission in Brussels ten days ago. My answer wasn’t flattering to myself, but what do you expect me to say? “No, I am not passionate at all, rather very boring.” Well, this is what I answer when I am being asked questions like that, especially since I felt pretty empty and thus boring after the Walton performance. I had to think of this interview because today I did something seemingly very passionate: first my bow broke in the middle of the first movement of Brahms’ F-Major Sonata during my rehearsal with Steven Osborne two hours prior to our lunchtime concert at the Wigmore Hall in London, and then, within 2 minutes of our live-broadcast concert my D String broke. Passion? Or just bad luck??
I just finished a far too long day; at 2:30 am I returned to my hotel in Brussels after exchanging the Meeuwissen cello with my Goffriller, packed my suitcase, slept 4 hours and took an early train at 7:18 am back to Berlin. After my flight into Brussels was even cancelled last week and I missed half of my first and only rehearsal for the Walton Concerto, I was happy to take the train back home, even though I wasn’t all that lucky – some problems with the powerline delayed us for an hour. In Berlin I had half hour to shower, switch to a more formal look and drive with my little car to Dresden where that evening the popular ECHO-awards for various recordings were handed out at a gala event in the famous Semper-Opera.
I would like to apologize for having completely misunderstood and misrepresented the following facts: my manager had informed me that the Cleveland Orchestra changed the program for June 2010 and that they weren’t going to need me anymore to perform the Concerto by Matthias Pintscher. I assumed by having recently read articles about how the financial crisis affects US orchestras that this must have something to do with budget cuts of the Cleveland orchestra. This is completely wrong, and neither has the Cleveland orchestra laid off anybody. I apologize sincerely for having written this in my last blog without having gotten my facts straight beforehand (no need to look at the blog, I deleted the wrong part). The reason for the program change is that the focus of the program is now the 10th Anniversary of the Cleveland Orchestra’s young composersâ€™ initiative and will feature ONLY works commissioned as part of this initiative. I also owe apologies to my manager whom I quoted also wrongly; she had never told me that this cancellation had anything to do with budget cuts of the Cleveland Orchestra – we had talked about financial problems of smaller US orchestras because of the crisis and that artists, especially soloists might have to be content with lesser fees or might not even get invited so easily anymore, and in my little brain I had put two and two together (added up as five in my calculation though…) and came up with the wrong assumption.
I am very sorry!
Actually I wanted to write at least a little bit of something after last week’s Brahms Double in Berlin with the RSB, again Marek Janowski and lovely Arabella Steinbacher, especially since it is always very meaning- and also stressfull and special for me to play in my hometown, in “my” hall, the Berliner Philharmonie in which I have heard so many unbelievable concerts, seen the greatest players and conductors, in short: where I received my musical training, at least partly.
Gosh, I need a break – recording one program, performing a full recital with another one with no time in between, wears the most resilient musician down. Last night Markus Becker and me played the opening of the Reger-Festival in Weiden (near Nuremberg), and if somebody would have listened to our rehearsals, he or she wouldn’t have believed that we were attempting to play that repertoire in concert the same day. We had good excuses for not being ready though; both of us just came out of tough recording projects, him doing Reger-Bach arrangements for Hyperion, I did the two very difficult Prokofiev Concertos. But at the end of the day, the audience in Weiden didn’t know about this and deserved a good concert.