Alban's Blog

The copy and its original

Music starts where Language ends, yet Music is Language.

How do we acquire language? By listening, not to some audiotapes, but originally to our parents, copying the ones which care for us, later our teachers, friends, in the meanwhile developing our own voice. In school we learn grammar, learn to express ourselves more eloquently by being introduced to literature, slowly coming up with our own thoughts and style of writing in order to leave behind the rudimentary level of children’s talk.

Touring the US with Janos

With Janos in the Dunes of Oregon

With Janos in the Dunes of Oregon

The fact I haven’t written anything in this blog since quite a while doesn’t mean at all that I was so incredibly busy. Musicians and especially soloists love to pretend that they have so much on their mind and their schedule that they can’t even respond to little e-mails being thrown at them while wasting their time with the most senseless things, skyping, chatting, playing soccer manager or whatever. I am not pretending, but I wasn’t wasting my time either; as I wrote before, I just achieved happiness unkown to me before, which somehow took care of my strange urge to write constantly about my not so interesting life. Suddenly all I my worries, all my petty little needs of recognition and admiration have vanished and all I can think now is how to be as much as possible with my new-found love.

Nine Days in the UK

The last nine days brought me back to the UK, old and new collaborations were waiting for me: After playing the Schumann Concerto in Swansea with the BBC Wales and their conductor Thierry Fischer and a recital the day after in Cardiff with Bach-Suites and the Ligeti-Solosonata I drove with my little rental car to Liverpool to play my “debut” with the Royal Liverpool Phiharmonic Orchestra under Vasily Petrenko, Don Quixotte was on the program. A quick train-journey later I was granted by really spectacular Vladimir Jurowski the longest Dvorak rehearsal ever, in London with his London Philharmonic: 2 hours and twenty minutes for a piece everybody knows, every orchestra plays it every other year.

Divorce between concerts

Nobody taught us how to make any kind of relationship work, not with a partner, not with children, not even with friends; I learnt languages, science, music, mathematics and sports in school, but not how to interact with other human beings. Since I was never religiously inclined I didn’t attend the the voluntary religious classes where they might have told us something. And at least in my generation we didn’t manage to see nor learn much from our parents as they weren’t sharing any of their troubles. How to pick the right partner? But even if you find the right partner, how to keep the relationship fresh and alive, how to avoid any kind of routine, taking-for-granted attitudes or the change of slowly (or quickly) changing from lovers to a well-functioning team to raise children – nope, didn’t hear a word about that before it was actually too late…

Schubert and Chin

with Susanna Mälkki and Unsuk Chin after the US premier of the Chin Concerto

with Susanna Mälkki and Unsuk Chin after the US premier of the Chin Concerto

Inspite of maybe being happier than I have been for a long time (as described in the previous blog) I did not stop playing the cello nor enjoying giving concerts – only difference is that now whenever I have some spare time I tend to spend it on the phone with the source of that happiness which is the reason why I am neglecting my poor little Macbook.


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 […]

Adrenalin Pure – Three weeks of craze!

With Agnes Krumwiede, politician and pianistRight now I am sitting in a ICE (German fast train) along the Rhine river, gorgeous journey, after having performed last night two small pieces together with Agnes Krumwiede, a member of our parliament who studied piano and is now the cultural speaker of the Green Party. She started a wonderful initiative in her photo-11.jpeg


The past three weeks have been maybe the most demanding in my life so far, at least in regards of concertising (not talking about emotional private stuff which I won’t mention since I’d be hit on the head by too many people about being too open and I would have to justify it with the lack of privacy-filter and apologize…). After playing a week of Bachsuites at unusual venues as described in my last blog while practising the highly intense and demanding Pintscher Celloconcerto (Reflection on Narcissus), I travelled to Cleveland on the 2nd of November to play the Pintscher (by heart, couldn’t do it any other way as I like the feeling of authority to know the piece inside out) with this most amazing Cleveland Orchestra. Right after I had two days in Berlin to get the Chin Concerto back into my hands which I had to play in The Hague and Amsterdam, and now I am coming back from a week of Barber-Concerto in Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte.

Bach in unconventional venues

Bach im Musiksalon Leipzigerstrasse Berlin

Bach im Musiksalon Leipzigerstrasse Berlin

As I wrote in a previous blog, end of July I was playing all the six Bach Suites in the Radialsystem, an alternative venue for the arts in Berlin. A friend of mine attended the concert together with a gentleman who had never listened to classical music in concert before and who was so taken by the beauty of Bach’s music that he didn’t mind at all sitting relatively still for almost three hours. This came as a surprise for me because I thought the Bachsuites were a bit too complex and not exciting enough for an “untrained” listener, but maybe because of the rather informal and different approach on stage was more drawn into the music than he might have been in a “normal” concert hall.

Earplugs not only in London and Winnipeg

While sitting at another airport lounge, this time in Berlin, waiting to pick up my pianist Cecile Licad for our rehearsals for the Fauré recording coming up next week, I decided to do a little write-up about my reasons to always play with earplugs. A musician from the orchestra in Winnipeg had posed the question as a comment to my last blog entry, and as I am being asked rather frequently why I put them in, I explain it here again, even though I must have written it already at some point but can’t find this entry anymore…

Not so pure sound in Winnipeg…

Lately I have been thinking about possible reasons why the cello has not become more popular among orchestra schedules. While many people when being asked about their favorite instrument name the cello, there is still an overwhelming majority of piano- and violin-concertos being performed versus rather rare cello appearances. Yes, I know they are exceptions, but in general there is often barely just one cellist per season invited to play one of the audiences favorites (Dvorak, Elgar, Shostakovich a.o.), because many artistic planners are afraid that with a lesser known concerto ticket sales would go down.