Why do I write the blog?
I felt that we classical musicians have the tendencies to hide in our little ivory tower, expecting to play concerts which are attended by attentive audiences, but not wanting to deal with the audience directly. For me my blog is actually meant to reach people (I don’t know if it does) who are not really hooked to classical music (yet) and who may need a more personal approach to be drawn into it. By knowing a bit what’s going on in the mind of a traveling musician whom one might have seen on stage once or twice I hoped it could break down a bit the barrier and the distance between listener and performer.
I feel the ideal “performance”-situation is that the aura of the performer mixes with all the auras of the audience members. When that happens we have the typical performance situation which is sooo much better than any recording. In order to achieve this mix of auras I thought it might be helpful that the people know more about the artist on stage and come with an opener mind towards the musician on that podium. Do I use my blog for people to like me more? Maybe not “like-me, like-me!”, but to understand me or at least know where I am coming from. Since I have nothing to say as a musician (as one reviewer once put it) I thought I have to explain what I am doing with words 🙂
Why do I play in the cello section in the second half after doing a concerto?
My father is a member of Berlin Phil since 43 years now, and since I can think (since the beginning of time more or less) I have been going listening to this amazing orchestra – my first Wagner opera (Meistersinger) I slept through in Salzburg at the tender age of 4, and one of my punishments for not having done my homework at age of 9 was that I wasn’t allowed to go to listen to Bruckner No.4! My dream was while growing up to become a member of my father’s orchestra – and if this dream wouldn’t fulfill, any orchestra. When I joined the German Youth Orchestra at the age of 15 I was mesmorized by the beauty and intensity of playing in an orchestra – it was even better than what I imagined.
The older I got, the more my enthusiasm for music grew, the more I became opinionated, thought I knew how music should be interpreted and had fights with the conductors of the university orchestra during my studies (and during gigs I played as a student). I realized that I was too much of a rebel to become a good orchestra musician like my father who is the perfect “soldier” for a conductor – 100% loyal and willing to do what they want him to do. When the position of principal cello at Berlin Phil became vacant about 4 years ahead of time (the principal Otomar Browitzky retired early because of back problems) I was just 21 years old, had just soloed with this orchestra and realized that I was still far away from having reached my limits (if there ever are limits) as musician. By joining this wonderful group of musicians I was afraid that I would get self-content and would not continue the journey of questioning myself and working hard just on my own; thus I decided not to audition for this job, and because I became more and more busy playing concerts on my own I was never tempted to take any other job. By sitting in the cello section during the symphony in the second half of a program I fulfill this childhood-dream/desire to play in an orchestra without having to give up my freedom of being a free-lanced musician – so I have the best of the two worlds in a way 🙂 (except I don’t get paid extra for playing in the orchestra, so no securities…).
Difference between playing solo and in the section: yes, there are many, but I am not doing any conscious switch, it just happens automatically, because the common denominator is that for being a good orchestra musician or a good soloist you have to be a good musician. In the section I just have to pay much more attention of what is going on around me, I have to think much more chambermusician and teamplayer than extrovert performer, which actually comes natural to me. It took me some years to become less conscious of what is happening around me as soloist; often I was listening too much, waiting for the orchestra instead of showing what I want and giving the pace. I have learnt this now, hopefully in a good combination of being in a way Â leader while still listening what the orchestra has to offer. As a section player I have to follow the conductor, as a soloist I have to more or less lead conductor plus orchestra.