Alban's Blog

Category: FAQs

What do you listen to in the moment?

A concert venue, where I am going to play in January, wanted to know what I am listening to in the moment; somehow I misunderstood and thought it was about popular music, so my quick answer was “Radiohead”, because my fiancée loves it and I thought that they music was different to other bands, that they were “recognizable” for a moron like me (who doesn’t know anything about pop or rock music). Well, the answer wasn’t enough, they wanted a longer statement, and since I am pretty bad in bullshitting, I decided to stick to the truth – here it is:

I don’t listen to music outside of a concert hall. I love going to concerts and listen to all different kind of music (opera, orchestra, chambermusic, jazz, experimental, you name it), but the older I get the less I am intrigued to listening to canned recordings. When listening to music I need to have the live atmosphere, I want to see the creation in process, not some pre-made product. Indeed I live in a very lucky place, Berlin, where we have tons of live music every day, dozens of concerts to choose from, three opera houses, jazz-clubs, other clubs, and I am spoilt by having that chance, I admit. I do own quite many LP’s, mainly piano music, loved Horowitz and Dinu Lipatti while growing up, but I haven’t even replaced the needle on my excellent LP-player when it broke four years ago. Although I own a little ipod, I have no music on it whatsoever, just audio books which I listen to while jogging. I don’t need a constant stream of music draining out the last bit of thoughts I might be having – and I do think better when there is no musical distraction around me, and I love to be alone with my thoughts, don’t need any kind of background noise for it. What I am listening to in the moment? The Silent House by Orhan Pamuk 🙂

What would you like to change in the music business?

I’d love to see a greater humility towards the music in this business which should not even be called like that. There are too many promoter and artists who are thinking first profit and then the music (if at all). It got for my taste a bit too “fee-oriented” instead of just trying to do justify ones existence as an artist.

When and why did you start playing the cello?

I was about eight and a half years old, playing with my toys in the garden, when my mother asked me, if I would like to play another instrument besides the piano, because my little sister had just begun the violin. I wasn’t too interested, but to get her out of my face, I said “Why not?”, and then she suggested the cello. Same answer. Today she says that she could have named any instrument and I would have agreed!

What do you think while playing the cello?

My thoughts while practicing and during a performance are very different. In practice I have to be my toughest judge, a perfectionist to the very last note, technically as well as musically, but in performance I have to force myself to forget all about technique, all about preconceived ideas, nothing but to focus on the music, being creative and expressive every single moment, to dare taking all possible risks while imagening abstract stories or feelings I want to translate into the music, images or colours I want to transport through the cello to the audience. In my practice room I always have a blank paper next to me because I tend to have the best ideas while practicing. Ideas about children education, how to deal better with women, what to buy in the grocery store, which program to play with which pianist, what to record, whom to contact etc.. It just seems as if practicing equals brainstorming, while performing comes closer to a dream.

How do you get concerts?

As with all soloists nothing goes without managers, and after some rather negative experiences I finally found a team which I trust to develop and to put my visions and ideas into realitiy.

Are you afraid to perform?

Not really – it is rather a kind of curious nervosity. It is not so much the fear of failure which gives me this tingling in the stomach area but rather the anticipation of a fun-ride like a roller coaster; you know you will arrive, but so much can happen on the way… Maybe it’s the theater blood of all my ancestors, who were singers, actors, conductors and dancers which gives me this strange love for the stage which lets me deal with all the hassle of travelling, the tristesse of being alone, the hard work of always starting at zero again, being exposed to criticism all the time, as if the self-criticism wasn‘t destructive enough.

Of what are you particulary proud?

I am happy that after 15 years of playing the cello professionally I am still able to feel the same childlike pleasure making music as I did when was allowed to play chambermusic for New Years 1979 together with my father and some of his colleagues the entire evening. I am glad that I can experience and listen to music with the same naïve amazement as I did as a four-year-old in my first concert visits. I am grateful that I am lucky enough to play with wonderful musicians in beautiful halls and even get paid for it. Proud I am maybe of my discipline to not let myself go in spite of my lazy nature and not to give up whenever there is some resistence as I did constantly as a child, and that until today I am fighting against the temptation to choose the security of a „job“ (teaching or orchestra position) over the freedom of a soloist.

Do you like to practice?

As a teenager and by rather lazy nature I didn‘t like practicing too much, as a matter of fact I practically hated it. Nowadays it has beomethe greatest pleasure because it is the only time where I can really focus on just one thing. No telephone, no computer with e-mail, no so-called multi-tasking, but just the cello, me and the music. It is almost like an escape from the multiple tasks a career requires. I love to practice new pieces, and there always lays a great challenge in re-learning pieces I played already a thousand times. The more often I work on a piece intensely, the deeper I can feel it, the better I understand it and recognize performing possibilities which I hadn‘t seen before, but as everything in life, the last few percents of achieving anything hurt a lot.

What exactly is your “school project?”

In many ways I hate the word “project” and I prefer to call it at best “commitment at schools”. For my first performances in the US I was obliged to also participate in the so-called residencies program which meant nothing else but doing some pioneer work in schools, elementary as well as high-schools. At first I thought myself for too good and did it more or less reluctantly.