Alban's Blog

Cellist on Pilgrimage

After spending some cold and wet days in Calgary, where I first played half a solo recital for the sponsors (oh, I was so jetlagged that I got lost twice in my 5th Bachsuite – well, isn’t it a nice excuse, the jetlag, although I tend to get lost in that piece with the tuned down A String more or less each time I have to play it :)) and then the following days for the first time in some while the Dvorak with the excellent Calgary Philharmonic under James Judd, I was supposed to have almost an entire day at home for repacking and family purposes – unfortunately (or finally again!) we are experiencing an amazing winter in Berlin, really cold, tons of snow but with the minor side effect of cancelled flights and long delays at various airports.How much fun is it to arrive at 6:30 in the morning from an 10-hour economy flight with an 8-hour time-change at Frankfurt, having to wait four hours for the plane to Berlin only to find out after its scheduled departure time that it has been cancelled – as well as the next two. OK, I love trainrides, but this time I could have lived without it – I just longed to get home and take a nice shower. Instead I was waiting on cold platforms for some delayed trains and arrived at the end 8 hours later than expected, certainly without my suitcase. Maybe we musicians should just hibernate during the winter months and not try to beat the winter by travelling like morons.

The next morning, running late because of the extensive search for the spare pair of concert shoes (the other pair still in Frankfurt), I barely made it for my flight via Mallorca, the German’s beloved holiday island, to the final destination of the Jacob’s way, Santiago de Compostela. Believe it or not, this little jewel of a city is proud owner of a really inspiring orchestra, the Real Filharmonica de Galicia, with whom I just finished playing two concerts. Shostakovich Second Concerto once more, one of my favorites ever – I love the dark, saractastic and depressed mood, somehow fits my actual state of mind very well…
Conductor was Christoph König, with whom I had worked last year for the first time with his orchestra in Porto – incredibly gifted guy, wonderful musician and I have no idea why he is not more recognized. The orchestra absolutely adored him yesterday (besides the fact that he looks a bit like Brad Pitt…) while in Germany we are wondering why there aren’t more German conductors around. Well, maybe we don’t give them enough chances?

Two German members of the orchestra approached me after the first rehearsal, and what a deligh it was to meet old friends from my Youth Orchestra time; we hadn’t seen each other since 25 years. They were (and still are, I guess) both a bit older than me, so their last run at the Youth Orchestra was the highly memorable tour through Israel in 1985 (plus/minus one year…) with Gary Bertini and young Gil Shaham playing Bruch Concerto. Memorable obviously for us young Germans, being able to visit Yad Vashem, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, meeting its legendary mayor Teddy Kellogg(?), staying in Kibbuz’ and just admiring this incredibly beautiful country, threatened from its neighbours while trying to create a normal life in which music plays a big role. For me it was meaningful on another level: I was deeply in love with this violinist who wasn’t really sure what she felt for me.

I met her again last year in Mexico and I had told her that without all this unfulfilled love I probably wouldn’t have become the musician I later became – I used the music to fight my way out of this love-hole, and it gave me a deeper connection with the cello altogether.
Anyway, really quite special to hang out with the two members of the Santiago orchestra and talking about ooold times. Actually I should have stayed in this picturesque Santiago because on Wednesday I already have a rehearsal with the other orchestra in that region, the one in La Coruna (shoot, I forgot the name now). But since it is in exactly 20 minutes the birthday of my little boy who isn’t that little anymore, I flew all the way back to Berlin to help throwing his 11th birthday party – until now I haven’t missed a single birthday of his, quite an achievement for circus folks like us 🙂

Yes, he invited some friends, and we are going to spend some time at an indoor soccer hall, playing for a couple of hours and eating some junk-food as it’s supposed to be with teenage boys. He was really thrilled when my father agreed to join in (we needed another car to drive all the kids there), and since he is in a very good shape he will be a valuable addition to our little soccer teams (my father that is). This actually sounds like one or two of my birthday parties as a teenager with the slight difference that my birthday is in May and we were able to play outdoors.
Well, Happy Birthday, big János!


  • Michael Chen

    A belated Happy Birthday to Janos! Enjoy two more years of fatherly bliss before Janos starts saying to you ” Leave me alone! You understand nothing! ” :)) The weather in Germany is certainly severe this Winter. It took me 8 hours roundtrip to travel to Nuernberg from Munich and back on the RB in December because of snow. They should start staging a Christkindlmarkt on the train I thought, and free Gluehwein please! Very very cold here in Boston as well, but Tetzlaff is in town to play a recital this afternoon. Next week some of your father’s colleague from the Berlin Phil Windquintet will be in town for a concert. Life isn’t so bad after all!

  • Martine

    What a rich and meaningful life you have! It is a great pleasure to read your weblog. Keep up the great work! Best wishes from the Netherlands, Martine


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *