When I woke up this morning at around 7:25 am in order to practise a bit before my dress rehearsal with the Elgar Concerto here in Spokane, my first act was to turn the cellphone on. I am not a big cellphone guy, which means I also don’t get much calls, since I don’t answer my phone very often. I don’t like the phone, turn it off as often as possible, so when I saw that there was a message I immediately checked it since I don’t actually receive many calls (people learn pretty quickly that it’s worthless to call and they rather send me mails). It was the message of my father telling me that my mother had managed to finally leave this world after a three-year-long struggle with ALS (Lou-Gehrig disease).
Before I missed my plane three days ago I received an e-mail of my mother, asking me for help because she couldn’t take the suffering anymore. I actually took missing the plane for a sign and was ready to fly back home, but when I told her respectively my father, she expressed the wish that I shouldn’t cancel any concert, that I should not stop my life for her. I obeyed, and this morning it was all over. What a horrible feeling, being thousands of miles away while your entire family goes through the horror of loosing the mother.
The mother of all people, she, who has created it all, who is the meaning of life, she, who is not supposed to ever die. She, who breast-fed us, who taught, scolded, watched and corrected us, who played with us, yelled at us, joked with us – – how is this possible??? She was sick for three years, I know that it was the last time I saw her when I left to the US almost three weeks ago, but still, I am in shock. Good, that I had to “function”, had to rehearse, practise, perform. Lucky me. I wonder how my poor sibblings are doing, who saw her on her bed, pale and without motion, without her incredibly warm energy, without her eyes, which were during all this suffering still so full of life and love.And my poor father whose back is killing him, who couldn’t take the pressure of the slow decay of his beloved wife anymore – he needs my help, no? And I am here, playing this silly little Elgar Concerto, everybody knows backwards.
My friend and partner of my sister, Ã–zgÃ¼r, luckily set up a video-internet-conference, thus I managed to somehow participate at this very sad and silent family gathering around the death-bed of my mother. I saw her, in peace, but quite different. What if I would have been there? Would I have completely collapsed? Well, I actually lost it when suddenly my son Janos stepped into the picture and asked how I was. I didn’t want to do that to him, but I couldn’t help it. I am personally not afraid of death, but I just don’t want to leave my child behind, and I suddenly felt what my mother must have felt and why she fought so long in order not to die.
Luckily enough my friend Paul had decided last week that he was going to come up from San Francisco to hear me. Without hesitation did he book his flight back then, without actually knowing why. Fate? Maybe, for sure I was happy to have at least one very good friend to be with during this difficult day. At night I had to play the concert. My manager Michal Schmidt had called in the morning and offered me to cancel the concerts, but my mother wanted me to play them, she didn’t want me to return to Berlin two days ago, so wouldn’t it be wrong to now stop the life, stop playing music?
I decided to stay, play the concert, and I dedicated it for her, just said two small sentences and asked for a minute of silence. God, I was so close of loosing it again, but I took a deep breath and managed to stay alive. The following Elgar Concerto and the Bach-Encore was definitely among the best I have ever played. Very strange – while playing, I was thinking of her, not thinking about all the other inhibitions one might have, not about the audience, not the radio, not really the composer or the fellow musicians, just of pure emotions – the loss of a mother is unique…
No idea, if the audience really felt what I had inside me, but they listened extremely well. To me it felt as if their incredibly sympathetic vibes/auras reached me and mixed with mine, it felt like one. And while this all was happening I knew I had done the right thing to play this concert in her memory, to indeed dedicate each note of this most beautiful music to her. Do I hurt? Yes, I do, but I am glad that in my last e-mail to her I did let her go, I did tell her that all my holding on to her was egoistic and that actually all I want her to do is to fall asleep and move to this place we have no idea where and how it is. But if she is there, I know it will have become a beautiful place just by her presence.
Many heartfelt condolences on your loss, and to your family as well.
My condolences as well. I am glad you were able to express your emotions that night through your music. I am sure the audience felt some of that as well. I wish I could have heard it.
I was in the audience last night, and your performance was profoundly moving. I am a student violist, and I hope that one day I can express a fraction of the emotion you did last night in my own playing. Thank you so much.
Thank you for your words, and yes, I know, I am lucky that I have the music to work through loss and grief – this is what it’s all about at the end of the day, isn’t it? Just finished the second concert, which felt almost even stranger, because the memory of yesterday was so vivid, but I couldn’t feel exactly the same like yesterday which made it feel a bit emptier…
I too was at your concert last night and was flooded with emotion during your entire performance. Yes, we in the audience did feel what was inside of you! I shed tears for you and was praying that that the Lord would give you the grace and strength necessary to perform. Your performance was exquisitely beautiful and touched my heart in a way that no other concert ever has. Thank you for sharing with us in Spokane.
My most heartfelt condolences to you and thank you for posting this.
mein aufrichtiges Beileid, ich war tief bewegt von Deiner Schilderung des “Unfassbaren”. Viel Kraft Dir und Deiner Familie. Sie kann sehr stolz sein auf Dich.
Alban: Our family very recently went through the loss of our beloved mother, Rita. Despite the understanding that her illness was hopeless, despite being an adults, we long for the days of childhood when we had the luxury of being cared for and being assured that ‘everything will be alright’. Now the equation is backward and we are the adults and our children look to us. And so it goes we pay our debts to our parents forward and find that really it is all the same. Maybe there is some comfort there.
Our thoughts are with you. Thank you for a beautiful Elgar which touched our souls and no doubt made your Mom very proud.
I read of your mother’s passing and your performances of the Elgar on Cello Chat. I am so sorry to hear the news. I do know what a devastating loss it is. My mom passed away at age 55 from her third bout with cancer when I was only 20 and a student in college. It wasn’t unexpected when she did pass, as she spent the last three weeks of her life in a hospital bed, with her life draining away and she was really unaware of her surroundings or people, due to the inoperable brain tumor. The evening she passed I was playing Rococo with piano at the home of a music teacher friend of my teacher’s. I received a call after I finished (I don’t know what I would have done had the call come before I played). The next few days were a blur, and I don’t remember much. What I do remember was playing Faure’s Apres un Reve for her funeral service, a piece she loved dearly. Somehow I got through it, with the cello providing me with a way to express the grief within that words couldn’t say. I was unable to play the Faure for many, many years afterwards, because of the pain it brought to my heart.
I am glad that your mom is now pain-free and in a better place, but I also know that you feel the incredible loss of so vital a person in your life. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
Lieber Herr Gerhardt,
Wir kennen uns nicht, aber mein Sohn hat fuer Sie in der “Meisterklasse” am Freitag in Spokane gespielt und ich sass im Publikum. Er fand Sie sowas von nett und witzig und voller gute Ratschlaege – ich auch. (Mein Sohn war der lange, duenne Violinist in dem high school trio – das leider nicht so gut gespielt hat-, der sich bei Ihnen hinterher auf Deutsch bedankt hatte.) Wir waren dann am Samstagabend im Konzert. Dass Sie so was persoenliches und emotionales mit uns so selbstlos teilen konnten, war unbeschreiblich schoen und ruehrend. Noch nie in meinem Leben hat ein Stueck Musik mich so geruehrt und bewegt, wie an diesem Samstagabend in Spokane. Danke. Am liebsten haette ich Sie nach dem Konzert in den Arm genommen und getroestet. Mein herzlichstes Beileid. Ich bin mir sicher, Ihre Mutter, befreit von ihrem koerperlichen Gefaengnis, hat mitbekommen, wie Sie so unbeschreiblich ruehrend und schoen fuer sie gespielt haben. Wasfuer einen wunderschoenen Tribut. Ich glaube Nicholas hat viel mehr von dem Konzert gelernt als von der Klasse, denn er hat miterleben duerfen, wie maechtig und pur Musik sein kann. Wir werden oft an Sie und an das Konzert denken und hoffen sehr, dass Sie bald wieder bei Ihrem Vater, Ihren Geschwistern Ihrer Frau und Ihrem Sohn sein koennen und mit Ihnen zusammen trauern koennen und einander unterstuetzen koennen. Es tut mir/uns so leid.
Jody und Nicholas
It is an honor for KPBX-FM to broadcast Alban’s memorable performance. We will broadcast it tonight, Monday, February 11 at 7:00 PM PST. The introduction to the Elgar Concerto will begin at about 8:15 PST. We included Alban’s statement and the period of silence, as well as the encore.
Thank you, Alban.
Thank you, Music.
program director, KPBX
That you played Elgar so magnificently under those conditions, both exhilarating and terrifying, is a testament to your depth. Thank you for that gift, and yes, your mother was absolutely right to have you carry out your music…..reminding us once again how, at the end of the day, perhaps even the world, music and love will transport us to that place of Ultimate Beauty.
Your performance of Bach was the most amazing I’ve ever heard of that Suite # 6. Your interpretation —the nuances and colors, the introspection, turned my head (and heart) upside down! Bravissimo!
I forgot to mention, It will be broadcast on the web. Go to KPBX.org.
My wife and I were present at your Spokane concert on the Saturday evening, please allow me to assure you that it was indeed a memorable performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto. We are regular attendees at the Spokane Symphony performances and we know most of the orchestra members and many of the audience; people that we spoke to after the performance all expressed their sympathy for your loss and their admiration for your performance. Having recently lost my wife’s mother, a dearly beloved mother in law, we understand all too well your grief and pain. Our sincere condolences to you.
Es tut mir sehr leid vom Tod Deiner Mutter zu hoeren. Mein ganz herzliches Beileid.
Ich denke an Dich,
Lieber Alban, aus der Zeitung erfuhr ich vom Tod deiner Mutter und war davon sehr geschockt. Dir und deiner Familie mein aufrichtiges Beileid.
Deine Schilderung Ã¼ber diesen unfassbaren Moment, wenn einem Ã¼ber das Telefon gesagt wird, dass die Mutter gestorben ist, hat mich sehr berÃ¼hrt. Vor drei Jahren war ich in einer Ã¤hnlichen Situation, als mir meine Mutter wÃ¤hrend eines Aufenthalts bei meinem Bruder im Senegal berichtete, dass mein Vater in der Nacht verstorben sei. Ã„hnlich wie bei dir war ich einige Tage zuvor noch an seinem Krankenbett (er hatte einen schweren Schlaganfall), wo er mir jedoch sagte, ich solle seinetwegen nicht extra in Berlin bleiben, das Ã¤ndere nichts. Nun war ich also viele tausend Kilometer weit weg wÃ¤hrend seines Todes und konnte mich nicht noch einmal verabschieden und mich bei ihm fÃ¼r all seine Liebe bedanken. Ich war total geschockt und haderte mit mir, ob ich das richtige getan hÃ¤tte, als ich wegfuhr. Inzwischen denke ich jedoch, dass er seinen Tod zwar vor Augen hatte, aber keine Danksagungen oder Ã„hnliches ertragen hÃ¤tte. Er war im Grunde genommen ein rationaler Mensch, der immer genau wusste, was seinen AngehÃ¶rigen gut tut. Vielleicht ging es deiner Mutter Ã¤hnlich. Deine Entscheidung, das Konzert fÃ¼r deine Mutter zu spielen, war sicher richtig.
Die Annahme des Todes dauerte eine Zeitlang, zunÃ¤chst funktioniert man nur irgendwie und lebt in seiner eigenen Welt im ZwiegesprÃ¤ch mit dem AngehÃ¶rigen, den man verloren hat.
Ich wÃ¼nsche dir, dass du all deine Trauer und Liebe zu deiner Mutter etwas Ã¼ber die Musik ausdrÃ¼cken kannst. Ich hoffe, dass ihr euch als Familie gegenseitig stÃ¼tzen kÃ¶nnt.
Viel Kraft dir und deiner Familie
(kenne dich noch aus Schulzeiten)
Hi Alban – It was terrific having you back in Spokane. I was terribly saddened by the news of your Mother – how you continued to perform at such a high and beautiful level is beyond my comprehension. Yes, it will always be a memorable concert for all of us on stage and in the audience as well. I wish you all the best, and hope you will return to Spokane soon!
Sincerely, John Marshall
Alban- I am the first bassoonist of the Spokane Symphony (my husband is first cellist), with whom you performed your very, very memorable concert. For some reason, I almost fainted as the orchestra played it’s first piece (Bax “November Woods”), and thought of not playing the Elgar Concerto at the end of the program.
I am so glad my colleagues helped me back to the stage for your performance! My thoughts of my own weakness and discomfort melted away when you spoke your two short sentences. I experienced my dear father’s death a few years ago, and can barely believe (even now!) how beautifully you played in such overwhelming circumstances. I KNOW your mother was proud of you, perhaps more than ever before. Our thoughts are with you and your family. Bravo for your act of love.
So sorry to hear of your bereavement, my deepest condolences to you and your family. I know from my own personal experiences that while nothing can ease that feeling of loss – music can bring us great comfort and emotional release.
I’m so sorry to hear your beautiful mother is gone. And to think that just two weeks before I had stupidly asked if she was any better! True, it was an end to her suffering, but it’s a cruel irony that her first born couldn’t join her family at the end. Rather, the artist’s first duty is to his public. On the other hand, music lovers all over the world grieve with you today. So many composers have expressed their grief so beautifully and you have expressed their music so well that we are able to feel profound sympathy. You did the right thing.
I too would like to offer my deepest condolences on the passing of your mother. As a member of the Spokane Symphony, I can tell you that every single orchestra member was profoundly moved by your performance. Perhaps you noticed that many of the audience and orchestra members were in tears. Personally it had a deep impact on me, and I will remember that evening forever. You were at once able to capture the inner essence of Elgarâ€™s autumnal, nostalgic and melancholy sentiment, your own personal grief, and allow each of us present to simultaneously feel your pain as well as reflect on our own lives. It is a rare artist who is capable of sharing those talents and emotions on such a day. I wish you all of the very best through this difficult time.
Cello, Spokane Symphony
Thank you all for your very touching and beautiful comments. Tommorrow, on Thursday the 14th of Feb, will be the funeral, celebrating the life of my mother with some music and many friends. Where? Oh, it’s the church in Nikolassee across the street from the cemetery where we buried my grandmother 4 years ago (yes, my mother’s mother). I am very moved by all your comments as is the rest of my family.
Best wishes from grey Berlin,
Alban, Please accept my most sincere condolences regarding the passing of your Mother. You are right. She is in the best possible place and smiling that her son gave something beautiful to the world in her honor. Our parents are always with us in some way. The bond is never broken. Best of luck as you move forward in the near future.
It is with great sadness that I want to express my deepest sympathy for you and your family. I cannot imagine the amount of grief that you experienced upon the news of your mother passing. I did not know about this sad news when I attended the concert on Sunday afternoon. It was evident that you were putting all your soul into playing this great concerto. I was deeply moved and I would like you to know that as a mother your mother would have been profoundly proud and moved. She was obviously present when you were playing. I sincerely hope that your music will be a source of consolation for you. As one who believes that death is not the end, I am sure that you will someday reunite with your mother. With admiration for your courage and your talent, I wish you much success and love in the future.
Stay strong and think of mother’s support and love when play.As I told you several months ago,I lost my mom when I was a junior in high school,so I have a very vivid idea of of how you feel,although it has been some 33 years,I still feel it. I guess I still feel the sting it because she died just as I was holding her hand in the hospital,that you never get over.
Playing the Elgar was probably the perfect outlet for you express your feelings.Such a nobel piece it is,one that can be performed with unabashed emotionalism,or diginified restraint and detail,or with loving attention to it’s shear expressive qualities.All in all a very powerful piece of music that, can be used to express what ever mood that might of have been in.You are truley blessed to have had a parent nurture you in such a manner, that you can count your self in the catagory of a world class cellist
Alban, you have been in my thoughts and I’m so sorry for the painful loss of your mother. I’m touched to see all the kind words of support for you here. I hope I get a chance to see you again soon.
Lots of love,
Dear Mr. Gerhardt,
I would first like to express my condolences for the passing of your mother. If you did not inform the audience at the Fox Theatre of your loss that Saturday evening, I’m sure that all of us would have felt and taken in the grief and emotion that was in your playing that night.
It was a spectacular performance, if I may have the right to judge it as I see fit. I have not attended a great many of solo cello performances, as the best I’ve seen live is Dr. John Marshall of the Spokane Symphony, but I must say that your performance took my breath away. I am a student violinist that was there with my school’s chamber orchestra, and I felt as though I was walking into a light of revelation as I listened to your piece. I realized that if I can become half as good as you are, I would not as satisfied, for listening to your performance that night led me to develop a desire to emulate your abilities; to surpass, so to say, if I can manage it (no offense intended).
Your Elgar concerto took my breath away, but your Bach was absolute bliss. Thank you for inspiring me, as well as my fellow peers, and I, and all of Central Valley High School Chamber Orchestra, express our gratitude for your performance, condolences for your loss, and best wishes for your future career.
Ya, estu mir sehr leid vom Tod Deiner Mutte zu hoeren.
Excuse my German as I spoke it only until I was five years old and have forgotten much.
I attended your Sunday Concert and knew of your loss. Friends of mine went on Saturday and were so moved by your performance they could not hold back their tears.
Thanks for the wonderful Workshop at Holy Names which I attended and have been following many of your suggestions.
Bless you and yours…..
Really sorry to hear your news, Alban. I hope you and your family are coping well. I’m sure playing the Elgar in such a situation must be a profoundly emotional experience but one which I hope you have found a positive one. I know that Nottingham is really looking forward to hearing you in April and we all look forward to welcoming you to the city.
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