Alban's Blog

Presidents and Brahms in Ludwigsburg

Alban shakes hand with the German President Horst KoehlerThe other day I was asked by a journalist in a live radio interview about my open and direct writing in my blog. Wasn’t I aware that complete strangers would be able to read my deeper thoughts and feelings, and how did that feel? I must admit this question shut me up for more than a month now – maybe it felt a bit like criticism for saying too much, showing too much of myself. My beloved wife herself doesn’t agree with me being so indiscreet about myself. Well, let’s face it: another cheap excuse for not having written in a long time! 🙂 Even though I did experience many quite wonderful things since my last entry, so maybe there is a bit of truth in me having become a bit insecure about sharing everything. My problem is that I don’t have this “privace filter” in my brain. I don’t feel the need of privace, I don’t really know what it is. I am slowly learning, because it seems women need a lot of that. But for myself I found out that either I write openly, no taboos or secrets, or I don’t write at all. Took me a month to figure that one out, and now I am back on (the writing) track.After this long introduction I will have to cover the title: Last night I played yet another Brahms Double Concerto, this time in Ludwigsburg, at the really lovely Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele (they have these rather charming drivers shuttling us back and fourth from hotel to concert hall), and since it was the opening of that festival, they had made an extra effort and had invited the German President Köhler who indeed showed up together with the Slovenian President and the governor of Baden-Württemberg (the state with Stuttgart as capital). Applause after Brahms Double with Isabelle Faust in LudwigsburgIn intermission Isabelle Faust (the violinist) and me got our few seconds of shaking hands with the man who is very popular in Germany, though because he doesn’t get elected from the German people directly (but by the politicians) he might not get a second term – he criticized the big coalition running our country these days a bit too much…Anyway, he was very pleasant, so was the Mr. Türk from Slovenia, and the reception afterwards had enough food and drinks for a week. The concert itself didn’t come easy; the orchestra played on gut-strings, tuned a bit lower than the normal tuning (438 Hz) – the sound was different to other Brahms interpretations, very interesting and challenging. People seemed happy, I wasn’t too fulfilled with my own celloplaying, didn’t really come close to what I wanted to do with that piece. So hard. Well, I have another few chances coming up, among others with Lisa Batiasvhili in Munich in Mid-June. With her I played it already few weeks ago in Düsseldorf together with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe who played amazingly in spite of a conductor who really isn’t one: Frans Brüggen, one of the great baroque specialists with beautiful musical ideas but not the clearest of all beats… This concert was live-radio broadcast, and Lisa who is more of a perfectionist than I am (since I don’t take myself too important I don’t really care what people might think about my celloplaying – some missed notes more or less, what can I do…) wanted to cancel the whole thing.

I knew that the orchestra would pull it off, and they did, even though it was rather dangerous – until the dress rehearsal we had to stop at times because we all lost each other. The other day I listened to the recording of it, and it sounded suprisingly convincing, much more so than it had felt in the concert. Frans Brüggen just proved that you don’t have to have the most brilliant beat to make music as a conductor. You have to inspire the orchestra and work with them well, which he did, and with concentration (of all players) and his charisma he managed to pull off the miracle of a rather perfect Brahms Double, which is not an easy task, as I stated before.

The third different female violinist I have been blessed with (no irony at all, they were all brilliant and beautiful!) was the very young Alina Ibragimova, who replaced Lisa in two chambermusic concerts in Brussels and Schwetzingen (we did the Ravel Trio and Messiaen’s Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps with Steven Osborne and his wife). Lisa is very pregnant, and she felt that it was too much stress to actually do the Brahms and the chambermusic project – rightfully so, because even me, the undestructable energizer rabbit, had a tough time with that schedule:

May 5: Berlin-Düsseldorf by train, rehearsal in the afternoon with Lisa, then with the orchestra. At night meeting with my manager and publicist in Cologne.
May 6: Cologne-Brussels, early start, afternoon rehearsal
May 7: all day rehearsal
May 8: a bit of rehearsing in the morning, then me practising Brahms for 3 hours, in the evening the chambermusic concert with radio in the big hall of the Beaux Arts.
May 9: early start from Brussels to Düsseldorf, dress rehearsal at 11am, concert at night, big party afterwards (opening of the Schumann Fest)
May 10: even earlier start at 6:30, Düsseldorf-Schwetzingen for a 90 minute live radio broadcast at 10:30 – no playing, just talking. Afterwards practising for the concert at night, sleeping in the park on the lawn, and then live radio concert at night. After that dinner, then the night train back to Berlin.

Too much for a pregnant fragile lady 🙂 So Alina took Lisa’s place, and she really touched me with her very vulnerable playing, somebody to watch out for. I love the Messiaen piece, and the best: it is always a success, such deep while rather easy to understand music, audiences usually love it “on first sight”.

And before that little tour de force I spend three days in heaven in Tenerife, not really for holidays, but to play Barber with the orchestra there under Jesús Lopez-Cobos. The concert was on May 2, and because May 1st was a free day, poor me had to arrive already on May 29 in order to rehearse on the 30th with the orchestra which as most orchestras didn’t know this important and very gripping concerto. May 1 turned out to be one of my happiest days, without it being and especially important one. I took a bus early in the morning to go from Santa Cruz to Puerto de la Cruz, a 50 min bus ride to go diving. I had found a diving center in the internet and we managed a 61 min dive, going through under-water tunnels seeing beautiful fish and other creatures. After having spent such a long time at about 20 m below sea level, the exhaustion (I am not really the fittest these days…) forced me to just chill out for a couple of hours, eating some pasta, reading a book – felt like holidays.

Due to the different repertoire coming up I still had to practice, so I had taken my cello to this resort where the dive center was located at, and in the afternoon I found myself a little bench in the middle of this gorgeous 35.000 qm park of the hotel, big palm trees spending shadow, but I had the full view of the Atlantic Ocean. For about 3 hours I sat there and practised happy as I have hardly ever been before while practising. It felt so good, so liberating that I was convinced that I must be the luckiest and happiest person at this moment. Weird, isn’t it? Takes little to make me happy 🙂


  • Martin

    Hi Alban,
    Always interested to read your Blog. Hope you continue. Also very glad that you had a great time here in Tenerife. As I said before I was at the concert and you were truly fantastic. Hope you return.
    Hasta pronto

  • Frank Frederik

    Apreciado Alban,
    Como siempre estoy encantado de volver a leer tus notas y con mucho interes.
    Mientras tanto recibe un cordial saludo.

    Francisco Federico M del Campo

  • Frank Frederik

    I apologize for my poor English.I would like to send You My best wishes I congratulate myself for the opportunity to read your notes again.

    Best Regards

    Frnacisco Federico M del campo


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