Alban's Blog

Back in the States

Concert at Carnegie HallSince I moved back to my hometown Berlin in February 2001 this will be the longest stretch I will spend here. I arrived yesterday afternoon in Fort Worth, rehearsing for the concert in New York on the 26th, and now I am sitting at the airport in Charlotte on my way to New York, where I lived for seven years and where my son Janos was born almost nine years ago. Only for 24 hours did I stay in Forth Worth, just two rehearsals for the two pieces I will be performing at the Carnegie Hall Debut of the Fort Worth Symphony, the fiddler-player of the Brahms Double Augustin Hadelich and my own.In a radio interview the interviewer asked me last night if it was a “big deal” for us to play there. And yes, it is exciting to play at this hall, and at 38 it is rather late to one’s “debut”, but better late than never. But at the same time, I don’t feel it as something more special than most other concerts. At the end of the day it is just another concert – the people who come to the concert won’t think it’s a big deal, and the next day it will be already forgotten. Am I being unfair? Yes, sure, this is my speciality to be unfair, but realistic. Carnegie Hall is a beautiful hall, all the great performers of the last 100 years (?) have played there, but at the same time while living in New York I heard plenty of bad concerts there as well – I remember one Tchaikovsky Violinconcerto with a fiddle player which was so bad that in retrospective it takes all my fears away; if this guy survived, I might as well.

Oh, one thing which makes this concert special indeed is a world premier: we are performing a new piece for cello and orchestra by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov which we played today for the very first time. It is always very exciting to hear something newly written for the first time. I got the music a couple of days ago via e-mail (long live the internet!), but since it is rather simple and tonal it wasn’t a problem to learn it rather quickly. For some brain-exercise I spend some time on my intercontinenal flight yesterday in memorizing the piece. It is simple but rather beautiful, longing and haunting melodies, lots of pulsation in the strings, and I am sure people will love it.

It is so interesting – in Germany people tend to look down upon music which “pleases” the audiences, there call it “populist” or “crowd-pleasing”. But whom are we playing for? For ourselves? For fellow musicians? No, at the end of the day we have to think of the people who pay money for the seats in order to hear us. Life is hard, does the music have to be hard or harsh as well? I am really torn in two parts. I loved playing the Pintscher Concerto in November which wasn’t experimental or anything like that, no quarter notes or beating the cello, but it was highly complex and had nothing tonal. People reacted very positive, I was happy and impressed about that. Now I am going to premier a piece which is 100% tonal and 100% emotional. Yes, it does carry a message, even though the means he uses to transport the message are not new. But do we have to be “new” all the time?

I am so glad I am not a composer, because I don’t know the answer to how one should write these days. I feel with both sides, that’s why I play both “kinds” of new music. One thing for sure: new shouldn’t mean ugly. But then, what is ugly, what is beautiful in music? Tough call…

Well, my flight is leaving, back to the city where the best thing happened I ever did: my son was born here on January 31 1999, and in order to celebrate his birthday together with him, I convinced my wife to come to New York as well, and we’ll spend a week together, remembering the great time we had in this crazy city. What we’ll do? I’ll tell you next blog, now I have to run to catch a flight….


  • Florian

    What did you do in NY during those years? Who did you study with and which competition did you win? Sorry, I’m just curious and the links in your (“ein etwas persönlicher”) Lebenslauf do not work (on my comp)….
    PS: Just listening to your Arpeggione sonata- that’s Schubert, indeed!

  • V Faires

    gutten tag Alban,
    I have just read your blog on your return to NYC and also cruised through your webpage–very nice homepage by the way. Wish we could have come to NY for the concert tonight. We know 2 people in the FWSO. I’m sure the concert tonight will be great–we plan to listen to it live.

    I liked what you wrote in your blog about should music be performed and/or written for the musicians or for the people. Very good points to keep in mind.

    We know a young cellist from Hamburg named Johannes Krebs. He is the nicest person and very talented. He was with the Hamburg Symphony for several years but is now at Bremen. We truly love him and his lovely wife!!!!!

    Thanks for sharing your personal info about your family. I hope your weeklong stay in NYC will be truly meaningful for all three of you. By the way, you have a very handsome son and a beautiful wife.
    Kindest wishes,
    V. Faires

  • Frederic

    What a piece! Bravo! You remind me of Slava in his early days when I took lessons from him. What playing! You reach in, grabbed our souls, our hearts right out and inspired us all. Keep composing and most of all keep playing. Please us know when you are coming to Seattle. Thank you.

  • Monique De Wulf

    First I would like to congratulate you for your WebSite….
    I love it, it’s beautiful. and working perfectly…Really perfect…. I listen you to play and I am very touch because I was a good friend of Mitislav Rostropovitch. Did you met him before is past way last year ?….Did you study whith him ??
    Your touch is “incroyablement” ( I am french) so easy and light, like a plume so easy…INCROYABLE.
    I am in Californe, but I know the place you will give your concert in Forthworth….I am sûre you will have a big succés the Texans will love you. Congratulations for your son….Family and music the best in Life….

  • Alban

    Hi Florian,
    sorry for the late reply, but I took few days off the computer… 🙂 What did I do in NY? Just living there, or better, using it as my “homebase”, since I was travelling a lot already during these years (1994-2001). Now I am here and it reminds me why I was so in love with that city – too late, Berlin is the new home, and it ain’t bad either. Oh, the competition I won was called “Leonard-Rose-Competition” in Maryland, with the final round in Kennedy-Center in DC.

    Hi V.Faires – well, definitely go see the Fort Worth Symphony in Bass Hall, they deserve the support, played really beautiful at Carnegie Hall, even the NY Times loved it ( – great orchestra! And yes, we are having a blast in NY, now off to some Museums (MoMa and some galleries), our kid loves paintings.

    Thanks Frederic for your kind words, I am glad you felt the way you did 🙂 Unfortunately I don’t compose, just try to recreate as spontaneous as possible, so if it comes across as if I am composing, this is a huge compliment! thanks! Will come to Spokane soon, which is not too far from Seattle…

    Chere Monique, an honour to hear from a friend of Slava – and yes, I played for him twice, but the first time was when I was 12, and the last time about 15 years ago (I was 23, I guess). Haven’t met him since and was really sad and smitten that he died. well, nobody lives for ever, but he will on his recordings and our memory!

    Best wishes to you all,



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