Alban's Blog

Category: Personal

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…


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!

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.

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…

“Jumping-in” in Holland

After playing the cello professionally since more than twenty years, it was not until now that for the first time ever I was called within 10 days to replace two different cellists in two different cities in the Netherlands: wonderful Dutch cellist Quirine Viersen felt too weak two weeks after giving birth to play Shostakovich’s First Concerto at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam so I had the pleasure in replacing her with the really excellent Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra under Michael Schonwandt – a truly inspirational experience, especially in this gorgeous hall of Amsterdam. Two days after I returned from that trip I received another urgent call, another great cellist, Jean-Guiyen Queyras, had fallen ill (flu) and had to pull out of playing a solo recital all Britten Suites at the Gergiev Festival in Rotterdam.

Tour with Asian Youth Orchestra

Almost 25 years ago I joined the Federal Youth Orchestra of Germany (BJO) in which I played altogether for three years every summer, Easter and winter (and one extra session I don’t remember when). This absolutely changed my life as a musician because it brought me together with young people like me, talented and dedicated to music, different to the other kids in school, sometimes outsiders, but never really geeks or nerds. Playing music together in an orchestra after practising all these years on my own was mind-blowing, an experience so elevating that after the first session I just knew that I would not want to have any other profession than playing music, for the rest of my life. When I was asked to play five concerts with the Asian Youth Orchestra I agreed, first a bit half-heartedly because I wanted to provide real good summer holidays for my son János, but then nostalgia took over and I wanted to relive the time in a youth orchestra.

Back at the Grant Park Festival in Chicago

For the fourth time I am going back to Chicago to play with the Grant Park Festival Orchestra. Sitting in one of these compared to Lufthansa rather old American Airline airplanes I am actually very much looking forward to my short stint with this highly motivated group in one of the most amazing open-air venues in the world; located right at Millenium Park the star architect (Disney Hall) Frank Gerry had built this very creative space in 2000 – about 20.000 people fit on the lawn in downtown Chicago looking at his eruptive shell while great arches over the lawn provide the greatest sound system I have experienced so far, righ before Hollywood Bowl, I dare say. Many little loudspeakers are attached to these arcs, so that at the very back of the lawn, maybe 200 m away from the stage, you hear almost better than right in front of it.