I have no idea why I have been silent for such a long time â€“ it is definitely not because I had too much to do, rather the opposite; since my last official concerts of 2007 end of November in Neuss (a recital with Markus Becker) and Bratislava (Elgar with the Bratislava Philharmonic under Alexander Rahbari) I wasnâ€™t very busy. Actually a very welcome break in the schedule since I had to prepare and learn half of the repertoire for the next cd production which takes place right now here in London at Henry Wood Hall.
But somehow this â€žbreakâ€œ of almost two weeks passed quicker than anything else, and since I hadnâ€™t been home for a longer stretch there were many things to take care of, not talking of trying to be a father for once, practising the piano with Janos, working on his school work and just playing games. We had even bought a basketball ring and hung it as high as possible in his room (yes, Berlin ceilings are very high, so we have almost the official heighth in his room which means we can play real basketball games J). Now, whenever I need a break in practising, I go into his room and shoot the ball. I finally even lived out a dream I had: to be able to dunk the ball. Well, for these who havenâ€™t seen me in person: I am not very tall, rather short (1,75 or 5â€™9), so no chance for me to actually do it. But Janos has a trampolin, and with the help of that I just manage â€“ feels amazing to do something I was only used doing in my dreams.
So while my poor pianist Steven Osborne was practising our new sonata for the cd since summer, I started it end of November because he had told me, the Alkan Sonata is very easy for the cello. Yes, easy in comparions, but I had a hard time stuffing it into my fingers and then brain. As a matter of fact, he came to rehearse with me in Berlin beginning of December, we even played a little warm-up concert at some nice villa in Berlin, and until two hours before the concert I didnâ€™t know the piece entirely by heart. At some point he even got upset with me because I was so heavily underprepared. I have never learned anything in such last-second effort, must have been the closest call in my life. This was December 4, and I was very relieved after having had that piece â€žunder my beltâ€œ â€“ the other work on the cd, the Chopin Sonata, I had already done a couple of times, so I wasnâ€™t really afraid of that.
Now I am in my hotel near this gorgeous recording venue after having recorded 10 hours today, hard work, my fingers are falling off and I thought I should use my exhaustion to pay tribute to the fact that I am always most efficient when I have tons to do. Today was definitely the toughest day of the last 4 weeks, and it is today that I take the time and write something maybe not most meaningful, but at least a â€žLebenszeichenâ€œ as we say in German, a sign of life.
Of these 10 hours we took almost two hours finding the right sound and balance, and I am a bit depressed about how the cello sounds these days; it needed a new bridge since the string had been far too low in the past few monhts. Itâ€™s much higher now and completely different to play, I am still getting used to it. And instead of taking the time to get a rehair for the bow, I believed it would be fine, and now I am paying the price; hair falling out by the minute, I might even have to finish the recording on my not very much loved second bow. Bugger…
Oh, and the other 7 hours (one hour lunch substracted already) we managed to record three out of four movements of the Alkan Sonata, very fascinating and beautiful piece by the way.
It is the same recording crew I was able to use for all my Hyperion recordings, itâ€™s quite wonderful how this label treats their artists: best venues, best recording crew, enough days to record and the best of it: the owner Simon Perry and his marketing man and more or less right hand Mike Spring gave us the honour and came and listened for a couple of hours, which feels somewhat nice to know that they really care about what we are doing, not just the final product but also the entire process.
On my way to London on Friday (Steven and me did another rehearsal session plus houseconcert at my lovely manager Angela Sulivanâ€™s house) I bumped into two famous people on the plane: Ralph Fiennes (my wife would have loved so much to get an autograph, but I didnâ€™t dare, didnâ€™t want to bother the poor man) and as direct neighbour I had pianist Lang Lang sat besides me. We had very ineresting talks, mainly about his life which is absolutely crazy â€“ I think I never met anybody with a schedule like that. I have no idea when he is practising since he seems to be constantly travelling/performing/giving interviews etc. But at the end of the day I realized how happy I am where I am since I donâ€™t have the pressure of selling 100000 copies of my cdâ€™s, donâ€™t have to participate in all the â€žglamorousâ€œ parts of being a star (frequent TV appearances, several interviews per day, important people wanting to meet constantly etc.) and being able to surround myself with people I really like to be surrounded by. And itâ€™s nice to know that the people who are working for me (manager, PR) do it because they really care for me as person and musician, not just for the money-earning-part, because with me they donâ€™t get rich…