Alban's Blog

Live Stream from Australia

In a couple of hours I am going to play my debut with the Sydney Symphony in the probably most photographed concert hall in the world, the Sydney Opera. Yes, the famous landmark right at the water front, and it does look even more spectacular in real live – and it is huge! I didn’t know that inside this beautiful architecture there is a full opera house plus a concert hall which seats 2700 people, home to the really excellent Sydney Symphony, and I can’t wait to play the fragile but gorgeous 1st Saint-Saens Concerto there tonight (well, concert starts at 8 pm here, which is 12 pm Berlin time, or 6 am NYC, and there is a Bizet-Symphony first) – acoustics in rehearsal were excellent, but it can be always a surprise with people filling the hall. In case you feel like it, this concert will be video streamed in the internet, live and probably also afterwards – the link is in the title, but here it is again:

I haven’t written anything in a while not because there was nothing to write or I took a break, but time just flies, and the older I get, the more I seem to be running out of it, always behind with too many things to do. For the first time in my life I almost entirely missed a departure day; after playing twice in Aachen “Schelomo” by Ernst Bloch I returned by plane via Cologne to Berlin on April 24th in the early afternoon, counting on a nice evening with my little family. Just by accident did I remember that I was going to arrive on the 26th in Sydney, early in the morning – and I “knew” my departure to be the evening of the 25th. Well, something very wrong with that calculation, because flying East you loose time, and it is at least 24 hours to fly to Australia.

I double-checked my own (how embarrassing) flight booking which I had not transferred into my calendar, and there it said: Departure via Copenhague and Bangkok on April 24th at 8:55 pm. Which gave me just 5 hours to have a little lunch, pick up János from school, un- and re-pack, play some games with the kid, deep-clean the terrace (oh yes, I was efficient for once in these 5 hours!) and then rush back to the airport. Great thing about our little Berlin-Tegel airport: it is so small, that we can afford leaving our home, which is about 20 km away from the airport, about 1 hour before departure! You can drive right to the check-in, and right behind the check is the aircraft, so there is no distance to walk. Security is just for that gate, so no lines either – heaven!!!

By the way, I had no idea that Aachen was such an interesting city – amazing old cathedral, the most important medieval treasure in the world, and the townhall is the place where Charles the Great and all other kings were crowned from 850 until 16oo after Christ. I have been to Aachen before, but always just in and out, no time to see the old city. It ain’t big, but pretty impressive. So was the orchestra with their chief conductor Marcus Bosch – best Schelomo I participated in so far, and their Mendelssohn 1st Symphony was absolutely top-class. And with my luck this was another concert being live-broadcasted; always an extra little stress, especially with a piece I don’t know that well – the fear of a memory lapsus and everybody of the 500 people listening on the radio hearing it… 🙂 Well, it didn’t happen, and actually, who cares anyway – worse things happen in the world than some German cellist getting lost in some cello piece with orchestra.

This is actually the attitude I do have while playing, because coming to think of it, one could get really nervous with all that live-stuff going on – but I just compare it to some big, important soccer game, with 60.000 fans routing for the team, and sometimes a couple of millions watching on the Television. And EVERYBODY sees when you do a bad pass, miss a penalty or score an own goal, and all these fans hate you for it. In music, first of all we have no adversary against whom we could loose, and most importantly, if we miss a note, very few people can tell, and even those who can tell, they often don’t really care, because it is indeed not very important. And getting lost – hey, who hasn’t gotten lost in a complicated piece of music, and it feels always much worse on stage than in the audience.

Well, now I am making myself nervous speaking too much about it, so I’d better go, pick up my concert clothes from the drycleaner (oops, they were sooo smelly, shame on me!) and have a bite to eat…

Just one funny story before I leave: I did arrive on April 26 at around 9 am at my hotel here in Sydney. I felt pretty good for just having travelled for ever and not having slept much more than 11 hours in the 4 nights prior to the arrival (the last night in Aachen we celebrated, and then I had to prepare some homework for my son until 4 am in the morning…) – so I decided to practise a couple of hours. After a little lunch at 2 pm I had about one hour to an interview plus photoshoot for some paper and I wanted to be once in my life professional and rest a bit before the interview for not boring the poor journalist.

I was woken up by the house manager after them calling my room for about 10 minutes, my alarm ringing for half’n hour, and it took him another couple of minutes inspite of having turned on the light and talked to me – he actually had to shake me to wake me up. I had never ever fallen asleep so deeply like that, and I was deeply embarassed towards the photographer and journalist who had to wait for me for half an hour. Won’t ever happen again, but too much jet-lag is too much jet-lag…


  • Luke Collings

    Dear Alban,

    I wanted to say thank you for a wonderful evening of music last night. I was on the edge of my seat all through the concerto. It was simply beautiful.

    I’m afraid my wife and I were sitting up in the gods, so I didn’t hear the title of your encore solo piece. I think it was Shoshtakovic but I’m not sure. Could you tell me what it was?

    Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see you in Sydney again. When you do come back I will definitely be there.

    Best Wishes,


  • Yves Noldus

    At Alban’s Sydney Opera House performance on Saturday May 2, he performed a solo cello encore after Saint-Saens, to which he referred as ‘someting modern’. I did not catch the titlle of the piece. Does anyone know?

  • Alban

    Dear Luke and Yves,
    sorry for the late reply! I am glad you enjoyed the concert – always a scary piece to perform, I think, especially since I am never sure if this is the way I want it…
    The encore on May 1st was a “Moderato” by Mstislav Rostropovich which is part of a set of etudes he wrote, and May 2nd I played the last movement of the Ligeti Solosonata.

    Best wishes,



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