Alban's Blog

In Toronto with Peter Oundjian

after the toronto performances with peter oundjian and his lovely familyMy Schumann adventures are slowly coming to an end – after the three performances in Berlin and Portland I played it now twice in Toronto with Peter Oundjian and his wonderful Toronto Symphony. I feel so fortunate of having played this complicated piece with three quite different (but all very strong) conductors where the music making was very spontaneous and inspiring.Christian Thielemann in Berlin, my good friend Carlos Kalmar in Portland, and now wonderful Peter Oundjian in Toronto carried me each performance through the piece – never any balance problems, and I felt I was able to do whatever I wanted to do. As a matter of fact, each of them didn’t just accompany me but inspired me to explore the depths of this work, go in different directions in every performance. Quite amazing for me was the flexibility with which the orchestras reacted to their maestros. Yes, I experienced a freedom I never thought I would dare to take.

The only frustrating note was, that inspite of me feeling very free and expressive the press in Berlin and Portland criticized that it sounded emotionally restricted and small. I wrote about this already after the Berlin concerts, but when I read a similar review in Portland, I tried to come up with a plausible answer why the reviewer who liked me two years ago suddenly thought I was lacking emotionality. “Don’t listen to reviews” Peter scolded me, and maybe he is right. Here in Toronto the person liked it very much, but I will tell you in my next blog what my explanation for the luke-warm reviews are. Most probably I am wrong, but it is a thought…

Now I will be off to Berlin for a nice weekend with my son before having to fly to Korea on Monday for – another Schumann!


  • charles

    Hi Alban,

    I am a violist in the orchestra in Portland and I found the review to be odd – I wondered if he had been at the same performance or performances that you and I had performed that weekend. I think that the amount of movement has something to do with it – look at the attention that Lang Lang is getting, and I don’t think that he’s that special compared to some other more “stationary” performers. The other aspect is that the hall in Portland is notoriously bad for cello soloists – even Lynn Harrell didn’t sound as loud as usual the last time he was here! I personally think that restraint and honesty with regards to what the composer asked for and intended in interpretation is best, call me a “strict constructionist” for musical interpretation.

  • Alban

    Hi Charles,

    thanks for your consoling words! Yes, a hall can make a big difference in perception. If you hear something very far away, it is hard to be touched by it, especially in times of recordings, when you hear the solo instrument very, very near, too close for taste in most recordings (including my own!). This is obviously not healthy, because we spoil our audiences, and in concerts they are easily disappointed because we don’t get the same kind of balance.

    It was a pleasure playing with your orchestra, thank you for the support and best wishes for the future,

  • Judy

    Having been at one of your Portland performances myself, I have to say that the critics in Portland don’t know what they are talking about. You were great.

    But Charles may be right about the acoustics of the hall – I was lucky to be sitting almost right in front of you, so I didn’t have that problem, but some seats in the hall tend to have pretty poor sound.

    Thanks for the autographed CD – the Volkmann Concerto was lovely! Come to Portland again soon!

  • Alban

    Hi Judy, glad you like the Volkmann, I think it’s a wonderful little concerto. Thanks for your comment, and promise, I won’t take these comments too much to heart anymore – but it takes some “positive arrogance” to ignore criticism, especially since we sometimes can learn a lot from it…
    Best wishes,


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