Alban's Blog


Couple of days ago I received an e-mail from a friend who asked me if the fact that I hadn’t written any blog since a while had to do with me being finally happy – I hadn’t thought about it, but I can’t deny that since my last entry my private life has indeed taken a sharp turn towards more fulfillment apart music and travelling. Much needed, I may add, because using concerts to run away from a life which was lacking something deeper than just playing the cello and travelling like an idiot as I have done the last four months of the old year (and maybe the years before…) is not the healthiest thing to do. And while I was fully aware of this escape from reality I couldn’t really do much about it.

Now I can’t wait to come back home after almost two weeks of concerts in the United States, even though I had some rather pleasant reunions with collaborators and friends – still it didn’t compensate for what I was missing for quite a long time without even knowing it. They say that you don’t know what you have until you loose it – in my case it was the opposite: I didn’t know what I was missing until I found it (without looking for it).

Thanks to an early arrival from Memphis to Amsterdam I finally have the long-awaited lay-over which I can use for writing some lines about what I have done lately, although it all doesn’t seem to matter anymore – how things can change 🙂

Yes, I spent the last few days in Elvis-land, performing Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations with the Memphis Symphony and Daniel Hege, and even though I didn’t really feel like Rococo at all in this freezing cold weather it all changed after the dress rehearsal when suddenly we all found the joy in this beautiful little piece of music. One orchestra musician said after yesterday’s afternoon-performance that she was happy to experience this piece as a work of music much rather than show-off. And actually this is what it is: a little jewel, very fragile and beautiful, but except the extrovert last variation rather elegant and introvert. Daniel Hege watched me almost the entire time, I felt very much carried through the whole work which made my part much easier.

The days prior I had spent in New York at my friend Paul’s apartment in order to kill the time in between the engagement in Jacksonville and Memphis. Normally I would have flown back home in between, had four days to do so, but considering the problems all these airports were experiencing with snow and ice I thought I should be professional and stay in the country. Funny enough this winter I had not run into any weather related trouble – quite a miracle if one remembers the days of closed airports all over Europe. Even in the past few days the airport in Atlanta was closed due to snow – I had flown via Atlanta on my way to Jacksonville just a few days before. Lucky me…

After having lived in New York for seven years it was nice to spend three days there without any obligations – meeting friends, walking around town, practising, shopping a bit (noise-cancelling headphones, finally, what a relief for listening to music or watching movies in airplanes!), eating some good food – and realizing how happy I am living in Berlin, a city which is maybe less flashy, trendy and rich, but far more affordable and calmer while offering culturally as much if not more than the Big Apple. Oh, don’t misunderstand me, I love New York, but to raise a child and have a family, Berlin is much easier to live in (if you have the choice that is).

The program in Jacksonville was very interesting: Fabio Mecchetti, the chief conductor there, with whom I had just performed the Barber Concerto in Brazil, put together an unusual program with a rather short first orchestra half (some piece by Liszt which I had never heard of) and an almost hour-long second half: Beethoven (violin) Romance, Richard Strauss (cello) Romance and then Brahms Double Concerto. Partner in crime the excellent Augustin Hadelich, young man, great violin playing, we had a good time not only on stage but also at numerous lunches and after concert dinners – two of them with the very nice members of the orchestra who took us around a bit as there was not too much food close to the hotel.

I always like when this happens, as the connection with orchestra members beyond just playing on stage together is so rewarding and important. Problem is that I am usually too shy to just go forward and talk to them without a special reason, and often they think it is inappropriate to approach the soloist – well, some soloists might prefer to be left alone, but I am not one of them; I find it interesting to bond with the people I perform with on a social level – obviously not with everybody, but at least with some. Because of some total black-out I had booked my flight from Jacksonville to New York two days after my last concert in Jacksonville, but because of the new-found friends in the orchestra I was able to spend a wonderful evening with pizza and movie at a private home. Nice change to the normal evenings on the road!

Christmas and New Year’s were quite and calm, spent three very nice days in Madrid at the end of the year, happily not touching the cello for exactly two weeks after having performed the last concert in Rennes on Dec 17 with the orchestra there and a very talented young conductor from Signapore, Daniel Ang. I had to fly via Paris, and the the only problem I had was that my flight arrived 90 minutes late which was indeed close to a miracle, because the days around my flights Paris airport was actually closed, thousands of passengers stranded while I seemed to be protected by some invisible flight-God who made sure that I would get to the concerts in time as well as back home. Or maybe it’s this funny deal I signed with the little man with the funny leg who showed up the other day on my door steps, smelling of sulfur and behaving rather strangely… 🙂


  • Rhonda

    Nice to hear from you again! I’m just back from Israel and Egypt, did some peacemaking and must have caused a riot, just back in Amsterdam to do peace missions in my own apartment, returned to find my neighbor in jail due to domestic disturbances! And I thought the black pearls I brought back had an Egyptian curse! One night salt rain come in the bedroom, no known reason and my professor friend was called on g-mail by people speaking Arabian! All the same, I am ready to do Alyah in Israel and was able to talk to a lot of people about the lack of peace talk leaders in the middle east compared to war-monging generals! Also distributed cd’s of my recording of the 2nd Gamba Sonata, carried a Koran in English and nearly go INTO the Al Akqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem!

  • Michelle

    Hi there, I have been following your blog for a while having seen you play on a number of occasions in London. Its great that you are sounding much happier and more contented. Long may it continue. Best wishes, Michelle

  • Regula

    Hi there,
    first of all, let me echo Michelle’s good wishes. I was happy to read “Happiness”, too.

    I couldn’t make it to London or Brussels but have just heard the Wigmore Schubert trios on BBC3 and want to add my virtual cheers to those of the lucky people who were there. That was the stunning music-making this music deserves. Thank you.

    May I add the hope that more serene times for you will include time for more chamber music? The Guardian critic who heard you in Reading wrote: “With the great Beaux Arts trio finally gone after 50 years, could this be the trio for the next half century?” It would be great if you proved him right.

    All the best,

  • Vanessa

    Hi Alban, my name is Vanessa.
    I must say that I love to read your blog. I´m not a cellist, I will probably start to study again next month, I couldn’t continue before (I studied just two years), because some economics problems forced me to quit, but it´s something I deeply miss and of course, that let me enjoy hearing a great cellist like you. Maybe one day before the arthritis come into my life, I will be able to play something decent.

    Besides your incredible technique, the way you play is so emotional expressive and full of passion, a quality that is so rare in most of classical musician.
    When I listened your performance of the Elgar concerto I had to close my eyes to feel the intense way that this gorgeous music flows in your interpretation.

    So, your grandfather was Jewish, now I understand from where it comes your ability to have empathy with the deep feelings expressed in music. Did your grandfather survive to the Shoá?

    Thank you for share your ideas and feelings in this blog, it´s very inspiring for me.
    If I could be nearest Berlin I will definitely take lessons with you.

    My best wishes for you.
    PS: I´m sorry that my English it´s not good, so, forgive me for the mistakes.


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