Alban's Blog


I just finished a far too long day; at 2:30 am I returned to my hotel in Brussels after exchanging the Meeuwissen cello with my Goffriller, packed my suitcase, slept 4 hours and took an early train at 7:18 am back to Berlin. After my flight into Brussels was even cancelled last week and I missed half of my first and only rehearsal for the Walton Concerto, I was happy to take the train back home, even though I wasn’t all that lucky – some problems with the powerline delayed us for an hour. In Berlin I had half hour to shower, switch to a more formal look and drive with my little car to Dresden where that evening the popular ECHO-awards for various recordings were handed out at a gala event in the famous Semper-Opera.

Unfortunately I missed the first half with Placido Domingo and some other interesting performers, thanks to the German train system! Highlight of the second half was a beautiful performance of the first of “Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen” with Christian Gerhaher, Fabio Luisi and the Staatskapelle Dresden with its unique sound, low point a meaningless cross-over number with flute and cuban musicians. A couple of month ago I was informed that for the third time I had been awarded this popular award; first time had been in the category of new performer for my debut with Brahms Sonatas, some years later for the Rubinstein Concerto (maybe best concerto?), and this time as best chambermusic for the Reger Suites which Markus Becker and me which we had started recording 3 years ago but didn’t get released until last year.

I really didn’t want to go since I am not a great fan of big gala events and I was actually just looking forward to a nice Sunday afternoon with my little family at home. But Markus Becker and the lovely people from the distributor Codaex manipulated me in very smart ways, not commanding me, but luring me into believing that I could have a wonderful time at the after-party, meeting interesting people, making contacts while hearing some nice music. Also they did convince me that I should come just to value the fact that a rather unpopular cd like our Reger received this incredible honour, and after all the hard work we had put into this album I overcame all my insecurities and at the end of the day did enjoy myself more than I expected. Thanks for the convincing, and thanks for the award, dear jury (we didn’t get to say it on stage because we were too hungry and wanted to get it over with…) ๐Ÿ™‚

Definitely interesting to see how these TV shows are being pre-recorded; no room for error nor spontaneity, people reading their texts off teleprompters and still making mistakes while the audience believes they are participating in one of the great musical events of the year.Being part of an event has become so very important to audiences that they are willing to spend a lot of money which some years ago (or by now decades) they would have spent on maybe five or six “normal” chambermusic concerts or other cultural activity. I am not judging it, maybe regretting a little, because I personally much prefer the smaller and intimate setting of a “regular” chamberconcert, and I prefer musicians rather than stars.

People told me that classical music had to be saved, and it can only be saved by creating stars – and maybe these people are right, because the world is constantly changing, and the distraction are getting more and more fascinating, all of it at your fingertips, you don’t even have to leave your home anymore. So classical music had to come up with some class act not to fall behind too much in popularity. And some of the so-called stars are very good musicians, no doubt about that, but some are just not very interesting. And by suggesting to an audience that somebody is the greatest (let’s say) trombone player of our times who is actually rather sub par, the audience will believe us, but wouldn’t their conclusion be that music is rather dull or at least that trombone isn’t such a good instrument?

If I would tell somebody, who doesn’t know anything about soccer, that the Hertha Berlin soccer team is the best in the world and take this person to a game, he might believe me because he wouldn’t be able to judge otherwise, but he just might think that soccer is a really stupid game (this is a sad subject, because I am a fan of this team, and they are playing their worst season in 15 years….).

Yes, times have changed – thirty years ago very few people were making recordings, and whoever had a recording contract was a valued member of the concert life, because why would you record him or her if not for the fact that he was a superb soloist. Nowadays anybody can make a recording, and everybody makes recordings, which makes it increasingly difficult for the poor labels to survive because too many recordings flood the market, and in order to sell cd’s nowadays, you have to come up with some excellent story behind it. In earlier times people playing concerts would record sooner or later the standard repertoire they were playing day in day out. Now everything has been done already, and while there might not be much reason to record the same pieces over and over again, somehow the ability of the general audience to listen to and enjoy modern music hasn’t been developed, so we can’t even record the new pieces because “it won’t sell”.

Very tricky, and an event like tonight (or rather last night by now, it’s 4 am already…) is aimed to bring more people into classical music by giving more glamour to it than it normally has, in front of a (hopefully) big national TV audience. Does it work? I very much hope so, because I love live music far too much to see it die out….

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