Alban's Blog

Dealing With The Loss

After I wrote my last blog shortly after my mother died, I wasn’t sure if so much unfiltered writing is appropriate. But as the rather impulsive person I can be, I decided to stick with what felt right in that moment. When I observe all these very touching comments to this last entry, I realize that it was maybe not appropriate, but for me extremely helpful – it really helped me to go on after this loss which probably can only be “topped” by the loss of your own child. The quintessence what people seemed to aim at and which was not obvious to me, was the fact that my mother lives on in my music.

That’s the reason why she didn’t want me to come back to Berlin when she felt her end was approaching, but she wanted me to continue playing. That’s how she got her own “memorial concert” the day of her death – she was a highly gifted musician, and if I have any musical talent, it comes from her. A certain instinctive “feel” how music should be played – never mind if it’s right or wrong, but I learned through her “genes” how to read and understand a piece of music I have never heard before, how to come up with own ideas.

I didn’t cancel a single concert, the funeral was fitted to my schedule, and at some point I started doubting myself if maybe I am just a piece of ice and I was wondering if I should have collapsed more than I did. Well, I did it in a very compressed way: I had one free day after playing for the first time the Honegger Concerto in Siegen and before going to Cardiff to record that piece for Hyperion, and I didn’t manage to leave my bed, couldn’t move, couldn’t think, could hardly breathe. Just a flu, but I think it was the very stingy way of my body to demand the rest.

Yet I didn’t want to cancel the recording after having learned that concerto in the “passing-away-period” under great sacrifice, so I forced myself out of bed the next day, took the plane to Heathrow at 7:20 in the morning in order to drive with a rental car to Cardiff for the rehearsal with the excellent Welsh BBC Orchestra. Thinking back I must admit that I felt like in a cloud. Not denial, but somehow very bizarre, abstract and surreal.

The funeral itself was incredibly touching – my mother’s amateur choir which she had founded about 18 years ago sang from the top of the church an angelic piece, don’t remember which one, but I completely broke down, because it reflected so much my mother’s work. The priest was an old friend of the family and she gave an amazing account of my mother, without glorifying, just honest and loving, which made it much stronger than just pure praise. In between my sisters played together with my father and a colleague of his (Peter Brem) very beautifully the slow movement of the Debussy String quartet which my mother had wished for at her funeral. I have no idea how they managed since they all were in tears and none of them had ever played the piece.

Towards the end of the service I played the Sarabande of the 5th Bachsuite as well as the Preulde of the 6th facing my mothers coffin with the back to the crowded church, and I felt her so close that I instantly knew why I had to continue playing the cello – not as if nothing happened, but because something happened, with a new purpose, to carry out my mother’s calling which hopefully lives on in me. Oh, it sounds arrogant, but it wasn’t my thought – I am just stealing it from others because it helped me so much dealing with the pain.

After a couple of smaller recitals in Germany I just had a week off in Berlin, alone with my son Janos, and we had a wonderful time, reading, playing, practising piano, talking and looking for apartments. I didn’t manage to touch the cello at all during that 8 days which felt great after the physical and emotional stress of the preceding few weeks – now I am in Madrid, having the pleasure of doing another Sinfonia Concertante with the RTVE and Walter Weller – pleasure because I just did it a couple of times in January, so it will come back rather easily, and I will have some time to also enjoy the Spanish capital and practise my Spanish. Did I mention that whenever I am in Berlin I am meeting a Spanish teacher to finally learn this gorgeous language which on top of everything is the language of my son… Yes, I know, I am lazy, should have learned it a long time ago, and I understand a lot, but hey, it’s never too late!!! On Friday Janos is going to join me for the last concert and we spend some quality time together for the weekend.


  • Bob Hardie

    In this case, I feel that it is appropriate to begin with:

    Dear Alban,

    It is strange how, from time to time in our lives, we come to feel close to others though their writing. Having never met, we know that we would recognise them instantly in the most crowded city or obscure, out -of-the-way place.

    You really are the most eloquent writer and I thank you for the opportunity to read your latest entry.

    I am sad to hear of the loss of your mother. It is clear that you two were close, and that she was a remarkable person in many ways. However, I am pleased that you decided to go with your instincts and share your feelings; I have the impression that your mother would have approved.

    I had to smile at you comment “and if I have any musical talent, it comes from her”. After hearing you play in New York recently, it is evident that you struggle with your instrument!!! Yes???? This a terrible joke on my part; Australians are known for their awful humor. I enjoyed the recital immensely, and you must know and believe that your talent is prolific, without question. And yes, your mother probably had a lot to do with it.

    I have always felt ambiguous about loss for the very reasons that you bring up here; your mother lives on through your music, and through your memories. If I may share a similar experience, my wife died of pancreatic cancer four years ago. We had been married for 33 years, and her loss was numbingly profound for me. I nursed her at home for many months, and literally her final words to me were “go out and live your life; you still have a lot to do”. She was an amazingly giving person.

    So, I am now living in New York, perhaps looking for more of that life. But the thing that I wanted to share most with you was that the feeling of absolute loss was short-lived, and has been replaced, gradually, by the most extraordinary sense of the continuing, warm companionship that my wife and I shared for so many years. As the man said, life goes on.

    Your life is rich, and long may it continue to be so.

    Thank you again for what you share so readily.

    Bob Hardie
    New York City

  • Steve Gerhardt

    Hi Alban,

    My sympathies on the passing of your mother. I agree that through your mother and her passion for music you will always feel within the music, playing as if you are a part of it rather than just the instrument. I hope one day to see you play in Michigan or maybe Chicago as it is close enough to drive to.
    I wanted to tell you that my father is 91 and my mother is 85 so I know that it is only a matter of time. Just remember we are Gerhardts so we never give up or give in to sadness – We learn to let it make us better and stronger. Play strong and with feeling!
    Take care of yourself,


  • Francisco F. Martin del Campo

    Saludos espero que te encuentres bien ahora. Que algún día te pueda escuchar en vivo por mi país México.

  • Betty Sekhri

    Dear Alban,

    Yours words and thoughts are beautiful and moved me deeply. You have been through an extraordinary time and had the courage to go on as your dear Mother would have wished. I do think that the week off you had with Janos was exactly what you needed.

    The adjustment to life after losing someone near and dear to you is often difficult and painful, but I have found that eventually one accepts the loss and the good memories take over.

    I am so looking forward to seeing you in Washington on March 13, Neil will be coming here that weekend and hopes to see you too. Much love…………….Betty

  • Stephen

    Dear Alban,

    I was touched by this blog entry. -Yes you always were a pretty “impulsive” person, but, also, one who didn´t flinch away from yourself and stood up for it. I always respected that, as I do now. The loss of a family member is always an incredibly deep and personal loss, and I think you are courageous in sharing this. I am sure it helped ….will help, in the overall grieving process.
    …man the prelude to the 6th..that is sooo beautiful and I think if I were a cellist, and in the same situation, I would have chosen this as well. …Like perhaps no other piece, it perhaps approaches the multidude of feelings that one goes through…
    What can I say other than there really is nothing to say other than that I send my warmest wishes and I think the way you went about everything, pouring it into music, was wonderful.
    Stay strong.

  • Elisabeth

    Lieber Alban,
    habe viel an dich und deine familie gedacht, und schicke dir weiterhin ganz viel kraft und mut nach vorne zu schauen und dich über alle erinnerungen zu freuen. Liebe Grüße von Elisabeth

  • Alban

    Liebe Elisabeth,

    vielen Dank für Deine Wünsche – all diese lieben Worten haben uns alle stärker gemacht, mit dem Verlust umzugehen. Danke!
    Bis bald mal wieder in Berlin,
    Dein Alban

  • Alban

    Thanks for your very beautiful entries, Bob, Stephen, Steve and Betty, very touching indeed – and it might sound “cliché”, but it does give strength to read your encouraging and comforting words. Now I also understand why I had started this whole blog thing (sometimes I was wondering why I am doing it) – it gives me a lot of energy and inspiration back, especially in such difficult and sad times.
    Thanks for being there and reading my “diaries”!

    Hola Francisco,
    si, quiero visitar y dar conciertos en Mexico, el país del esposo de una de mis hermanas – los músicos mexicanos son muy buenos, he jugado una vez con el Orquestra de la Mineria. Espero que puedo volver pronto!
    Saludos y

    greetings to all,


  • katharina schaake

    lieber alban,
    mein herzliches Beileid zum Tod deiner Mutter. Ich habe in einer alten Gedichtssammlung folgenden Vers gefunden:
    Musik ist Leben
    Musik bewahrt Leben
    Musik ist unendlich
    und das Leben in ihr ebenfalls


  • Andres


    I found your website yesterday by mere coincidence. I feel sorry for your loss and am sure that having access to the powerful outlet music provides has helped in the healing process.

    I also need to tell you how inspiring it’s been for me to read your blogs and visit your website. There are three qualities I associate with your playing and the image you project: genuineness, integrity and depth. It is very refreshing to see them come across even in your website, as those qualities seem to become harder and harder to find these days. All the best to you.

  • Lauren

    I had the pleasure of hearing you play this past Friday with the National Symphony Orchestra. I am sure you know this, but your performance was magnificent and outstanding – Prokofiev’s concerto was glorious and awe-inspiring. But I think what I loved the most was seeing you play in the orchestra for the last piece by Rachmaninoff. It was very profound to me seeing a soloist play in the orchestra, taking a backseat to the self and playing for the sheer joy and beauty of the music. Bravo on both performances and I hope you come back to visit DC soon!

  • Alban

    Oh yes, I love playing in the section in the second half, especially pieces I don’t really know so well, like the 3rd Rachmaninov Symphony. In the first evening I was listening to it, and the 2nd and 3rd concert I sat in, getting the piece to know real well 🙂

    Thanks again for all the nice words, will write a new blog soon…

    Best wishes,



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