Alban's Blog

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…

Many books are written about it but at the end of the day, and that seems to be quite fashionable these days, you learn not only by doing but also from your mistakes, and mistakes I did plenty in my 15 and a half years of marriage which is coming quite exactly 16 years after meeting each other to a more or less quiet end. Yes, I tried to make it work, so did she, but if you don’t start doing that on the day you meet, it is often too late. Therapy, counselling, we did the whole monty, but if too much porcelain has been broken (as we say in German), it’s hard to fix it. Also not helpful is my profession as a travelling musician (23 years now, hard to believe…) which maybe prevents routine in the relationship, but adds so much insecurity and misunderstandings, so much pressure on a young couple that maybe it is a miracle that we lasted that long.

How does my son deal with it? Far too good – I was afraid he was just pretending and brought him to a shrink who said that he was completely fine; maybe it’s the new generation who sees it as something rather common that parents don’t stay together until death parts them; few of his friend’s parents are still together, many have two homes and all one can do is try to teach them how to make it better by explaining that relationships need besides the obvious love so much care, mutual respect and at the end of the day, tons of work on the relationship.

Strange thoughts at 9 am at Amsterdam Airport (no, not sitting in the lounge but in some cafe while switching planes from Manchester to Berlin) maybe due to the earliest morning I had in a very long time, leaving the hotel at 4:55 am while having even lost an hour because of change of times, and another hour of sleep because my phone switched the time without me noticing it, so I got up after only 180 minutes of sleep at 3:45, waiting for the taxi outside the hotel until a security guy gave me the right time…

Strange how in this life of mine I am fitting this divorce in between my performing schedule (in this case between concerts in Bordeaux and then the UK – Cardiff, Liverpool, London), like I am fitting the actually important things (love, relationship) between concerts instead of the other way around. Big mistake, will change it in the next few months, because I suddenly realize that I am not getting younger nor that I have more than one life, so I’d better take care of being and staying happy!

Last night I played the Rococo Variations with the BBC Philharmonic with their new chief conductor Juanjo Mena, very expressive Spaniard, great hands and huge charme, difficult not to get inspired by him – but that piece, I tell you, it’s not really getting any easier whatsoever, especially when you have two little nasty microphones staring at you. Oh yes, I wanted to be free and spontaneous, but nevertheless there is this thought of the radio broadcast, and it is sooo annoying to have that in one’s mind. The trick is to ignore that, or at least pretend to not care, but at the end of the day we are all victims of our own recordings which are so perfect while on stage we are not….

Playing with the BBC Philharmonic was a very unique experience as they had just returned from – Japan of all places, having lived through this incredible disaster of earthquake, tsunami and threat of a nuclear catastrophy. They saw the skyscrapers swaying back and fourth on the journey from the hall back to the hotel (19 miles) which took them more than 8 hours. Oh, this fear of maybe not seeing your loved ones again, not being able to communicate with them, not knowing what’s going on, what a nightmare, but as bad as it must have been, it brought this group closer together, at least this is the feeling I got when playing with them the past two nights – this obviously reminds us of the really important things in life, and maybe it also made me think about my priorities this morning, even though I wasn’t actually in Japan.

Funny though that in the past month I got to play with the two excellent orchestras of Manchester, with the Hallé in Hong Kong and the BBC Phil in Manchester and Hanley – quite a blessing to have two such wonderful orchestras in one town of the size of Manchester. In between I played with a friend of mine Shostakovich No.1 in Magdeburg, little “run-out” from Berlin and afterwards Dvorak in Toledo with the son of the great Kurt Sanderling, Stefan, who in his own way brought something out in this concerto I hadn’t heard in some time. Hard to describe, but his rather unorthodox way of conducting got rid of some traditional habits which suited that oh so well-known piece rather well. Doing it in Bordeaux in the next few days, but first I can go home for almost two days, spending some short quality time with my son and my new-found love – something I won’t screw up this time!


  • Dianne Mize

    Nearing the seventh decade of my life, it seems to me that where parents err is failing to teach their children the importance of being present in our relationships. And of course, they don’t teach us because they weren’t taught. But, there’s always now, and that’s always our opportunity to remember to remember what’s important.

    I wish for you blessings in your new life and presence with your new love.

  • Mogulmeister Dave

    Alban, I’m sorry to hear of the end of your marriage. One of the best songs ever written about the end of relationships comes from Bob Seger, whose song “House Behind A House” from the CD “The Distance” kind of says it all.

    The only other thing I’ll say on the subject of marriage is a quote from the great singer, Dolly Parton. An interviewer asked her what she thought about the subject of gay marriage, and she said: “I’m absolutely for it–they should suffer like we do!”

    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us, both your musical life and aspects of your private life. I’ll send my best wishes on all the momentous life changes going on, and hope that they bring you to a new level of wisdom, joy, and adventure.

  • Bob Huenefeld

    If you want a better life,you must begin(and end)with values such as truth,honesty with one’s own self,love and forgivness.As you are a very well motivated musician,you must start with being the servant of the music and being teachable concerning the content of the music.Music is not self centered.It is to be shared with the audience!

    If you have a Bible (Not Roman Catholic),go read the books of Romans,Hebrews,and Ephesians.Jesus is truly the answer to all of life’s problems.Check Him out!

  • Delia Cliffe

    Hi, what a fantastic performance at the Victoria Hall in Hanley last week. Reading your blog and having an insight into your thoughts and emotions is very moving. I was on the front row and was amazed by your playing.Thank you!

  • Alban

    Hi Delia, oh yes, I loved Victoria Hall in Hanley, what a beautiful venue, such good atmosphere – a joy to perform there!
    Hi Bob, I don’ quite understand what you are saying – I actually see myself as a servant to the music, I know quite well that music isn’t self centered and I want to share it with my audience; if I am not succeeding that would be another problem, then I should re-think and maybe become a cab driver. Oh, and I don’t want a better life, I am quite happy and grateful with the one I’ve got, never mind the difficulties it involves. I am happy you believe Jesus is the answer to all of life’s problem – funny, people believe that since many years and life hasn’t become less problematic at all; but if it helps you, good for you. For me music is the answer, and it has helped me tremendously, even though I don’t excpect it to help everybody else as well. A rather personal field, religion and believes, I guess.
    Best wishes to all from the gorgeous city of Bordeaux,

  • Julie Reisner

    Dear Alban,

    I heard you last night in Eugene, OR, in the wonderful acoustics of Beall Hall.
    Surpassing artistry and originality. With the Bach, I felt as though the music was entering
    the back of my head, reminding me of something very old or ancient or apart
    from time. Your bow captivated me as a magnificent instrument in its own right.
    The Britten was so astonishingly beautiful and powerful. I look forward to the recording.
    You are a gift to us in these times and a bridge to the future.
    Many blessings,

  • Alban

    Dear Julie,
    thank you so much for your flattering words – this was one of the most stressful weeks I had, with two of these Britten Suites being new, so I am glad you managed to enjoy this tour de force…
    You can read my experience I had in Oregon in my latest blog, and if you are on facebook, there are quite a few pictures from this wonderful time we had aftewards in the country side of Oregon.
    Best wishes,


Leave a Reply

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