Alban's Blog

Category: On Tour

Lazy as never before!

This might have been the laziest summer I have had in my entire life, and it felt sooo good! Directly after my two-week-stint in Colorady with my son János I did a bit of teaching in the beautiful city of Weimar. My first Meisterkurs ever, five days of giving lessons to the same people, quite a challenge: normally I gave little masterclasses of three hours, where I could spread my “wisdom” to a couple of youngsters and then take off. This time I was forced to see the lovely cellists every day and check if what I had told them made any sense and had any impact. It was rewarding but also frightening as at some point I started doubting everything I wanted to tell them. When I perform I am very sure of what I want to say with the music, but in teaching I don’t want the students to say what I am saying, I want them to develop their own voice, but it is easier said than done…


Today I felt the pain of separation in its full strength since quite a while. The profession of a travelling musician makes you get used to being separated from your loved ones and since I have been doing this since more than two decades one should hope I wouldn’t feel the pain as doctors are said to not feel the suffering of their patients nor their deaths. Well, today was different.

The last thirteen days I have spent together with my son János, more or less every of the more than a million seconds, making an already good father-son relationship even stronger. Unlike last summer it was only one concert which brought me over to the US, but again it was a trip to paradise. My good (not so old) friend Anne-Marie McDermott, whom I was incredibly close to during my seven-year stint in New York (1994-2001) and whose musicianship inspired me very much during these years, had invited me to play the Elgar Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Stéphane Denève at Vail’s “Bravo Colorado” Festival of which has recently been appointed artistic “boss” (administrator sounds so administrative, which she is not at all – hands on musician as she has always been).

Although this invitation was for Friday, the 13th of July, on top of it during a stretch which I had hoped to keep free after playing a recital with Steven Osborne at the Rheingau-Musikfestival, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to perform with one of the best orchestras in the world, with a conductor about whom I had heard nothing but wonderful things, and last but not least I would have the chance to spend some time with an old friend. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the direct flight Frankfurt-Denver due to the late booking. We had to travel Last year I had taken Janos for three weeks with me while having to perform altogether six concerts in three different States (Oregon, Tennessee and New York, including the six Bachsuites, all three Britten Suites and the Saint-Saens Concerto) and he had loved it almost as much as me. When I offered him the possibility to join me this summer for a shorter trip but much less work for me, he was excited, and on rather short notice I booked our flights not even a month ago without having planned anything “fun” in advance. But fun we had plenty of!

Berlin-Frankfurt-Philadelphia-Denver, got there in the evening, rented a car and drove the hundred miles to Vail, arriving past midnight. I hadn’t slept all flight, watching movies and chatting with Janos, who at least slept during the car ride. The high altitude didn’t stop us to jump into holiday mode instantly though; after enjoying an a capella men’s choir in the morning, we drove an hour for some zip-lining adventure, racing back and fourth over one of these rough canyons we only know from Wild West movies. Although I have been travelling now for such a long time I can’t […]

Concerto Marathon

Sitting in a train, dashing back from my last concert in order to spend a bit of late-night-time with my son, always gives me the opportunity to get some work done. Answering e-mails, returning calls, or, as rather sedlomly recently, writing my little diary here. I know, I should just translate the monthly blog I am writing for this music magazin “Fonoforum” in German, but this would take much more time than writing something new – at the same time it’s kind of boring writing twice about what happened in the past few weeks which is the reason I have almost stopped posting something here. 

Skiing in Switzerland…

I am not trying to justify myself, but I will just give you another (weak) reason for my laziness in writing here: thanks to a chief editor of a classical magazin in Germany, the “Fonoforum”, who somehow thought that my way of writing rather honestly and directly about whatever happens to a travelling musician could be of interest for his readers, I am writing every month a “thing” for his publication. And somehow, this “thing” which I am normally writing within an hour or so, takes even more drive away from writing onto my own homepage. And while writing here is without guidelines and not too many readers (or at least I don’t know them), at the Fonoforum I mustn’t write more than 3500 letters which I haven’t managed yet, and the poor man is pretty upset about my unability to just state the most important things – I just wrote the new “blog”, and I am already at 3935, which is almost 15% above.

Self-Discipline and Death

I had promised myself to start writing more often again but couldn’t keep my own promise. Also I wanted to loose weight and learn Bulgarian which I haven’t managed. Self-discipline, the highest virtue for me because I have so little of it, and the happier I am the more difficult it seems to “stick to the plan”. What to do? Be unhappy and self-disciplined? Not raise the bar up too high? Or just take little steps and do one thing at the time? Yes, this is what I am doing right now; instead of practicing for next week’s duo-concerts with my fiancée in Cologne and Hamburg I start writing this blog entry in my hotel room in the city of Portland!

Time in Australia (in German)

Sorry, another blog entry in German -  will soon write something in English again 🙂

Mein Vater hat mir als Kind immer wieder gepredigt wie wichtig es ist, nicht nur regelmäßig zu üben, sondern ganz bewußt die “Batterien” wieder aufzuladen. Von Natur aus faul ist mir dies nie schwer gefallen; ohne Gewissensbisse habe ich es auch dieses Jahr wieder geschafft, nach meinem letzten Konzert am 15.Juli in den USA mein Instrument nach meiner Rückkehr in Berlin für vier Wochen nicht anzurühren. Zunächst übergab ich mein 300 Jahre altes Goffriller-Cello meiner Geigenbauerin zur jährlichen Wartung (der Hals war etwas lose…) und verbrachte dann mit meiner Verlobten drei Wochen in ihrer wunderschönen Heimat Bulgarien, am Schwarzen Meer, ihrer Geburtstadt Pleven sowie in den Bergen des Balkan und Rilagebirges. Eine Woche verging allerdings, bis die regelmäßigen Albträume (Flugzeug verpassen, Blackouts auf der Bühne, Verlust des Instruments oder einfach ein Stück spielen zu müssen, das man gar nicht kennt) sich einstellten. Erst in Augenblicken der Entspannung merke ich, wie stressig das Leben als freischaffender Musiker ist.

July Blog-Diary in German (for Fonoforum)

Als ich vor einem halben Jahr gefragt wurde, ob ich mir vorstellen könnte, in den Sommerferien meines Sohnes János eine kleine USA-Tournee zu spielen, lehnte ich dies spontan ab. Nach einer langen und anstrengenden Saison mit zahlreichen Auftritten, CD-Einspielungen und noch mehr Reiserei wollte ich einfach nur ausspannen können. Allein meine USA-Managerin ließ nicht locker, und nach Rücksprache mit János, der gerne mal wieder ins seine Geburtsstadt New York fahren wollte, verlängerte ich die Saison bis Mitte Juli, in der Hoffnung, Konzerte mit Urlaub verbinden zu können.

Touring the US with Janos

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…