Alban's Blog

Teaching and playing in Madrid and Washington

SkiholidaysTime flies, it is unbelievable – I had to get up this morning at 5:30 am in order to catch my flight back to the US at 6:50 (this is only possible in Berlin, since we have this lovely little city airport Tegel) which just has been cancelled, and it was already getting light when I was leaving my apartment at 5:50 am. Yes, it’s spring, and lazy me hasn’t written anything in here since a while. No, I wasn’t that busy, but I took a very welcome little break, skiing with my little family in Switzerland.Oh, we had the best time, and while my friend Paul who visited us in Flims in our cozy holiday apartment, I even had the pleasure of taking over the last of his three personal ski-instructor lesson. It was the first time since 30 years that I had somebody tell me how to ski, and it was so worth it. The teacher taught me in this 60 highly motivated minutes how to go down mogles (Buckelpiste), and something I have always been afraid is now the greatest fun on the slope. Thanks Ursina! πŸ™‚

Before that I had been going a bit nuts, that’s true, being away from home just a bit too much for my taste, but for the first time I decided to fly my family for an extended weekend into one of Europe’s most beautiful cities: Madrid. I played two concerts there with the RTVE Orchestra, and they came for the last concert on Friday just to stay until Sunday, and finally, finally I got to see something from the place I was visiting (I am a bad tourist when I am on tour, mainly staying in the hotel, practising or working on the computer, how boring). We didn’t do anything special, just getting the city to know by walking all over town (we had glorious weather) and spending a couple of hours at the Picasso exhibition at the Reina Sophia museum.

The concerts there were with Walter Weller, the Sinfonia Concertante by Prokofiev was my welcome “victim” since I had played it already five times in January. How easy it becomes when the repertoire is not changing every week. A week later I played the same in Washington, and I never felt as comfortable with this big piece ever before. Conductor there was Hans Graf who had conducted my very first professional concert 19 years ago. Wow, almost 20 years of playing concerts in public, that is a long time I must admit, time to retire… πŸ™‚

And in both cities I also had to teach, something I refuse to do on a regular base since I am not ready to take the responsability for even a single student depending on me to lead him to a job. But a masterclass here and there? I love it, it’s so interesting to face different students with different problems and trying to come up with some help within 45 minutes, sometimes very general things, sometimes incredibly specific – oh, it is soooo easy compared to regular teaching, where you have to insist and insist, repeat the same things over, nobody applauding you for it – I admire great teachers.

My father is one of them, he loves teaching, and he is so good at it, rather unbelievable – since more or less 50 years he is teaching now, and he does it with the same passion and dedication as he commits to his orchestra job, a real idol. Last night we had dinner with him after not having seen him more or less since the funeral of my mother, and it was touching to see him sit there and talk about his future alone. I wish so much that he falls in love with a wonderful woman and starts a new life – he hinted that he had some ideas, but it can’t be easy after loosing the person you have been with for 44 years…

Anyway, now I will have to go to my departure gate to get to Birmingham, Alabama (still in Berlin), and in the plane I will have to do some good praying that I can memorize the Barber Concerto, since I haven’t done that in a while, and I feel I am getting older, my brain doesn’t pick up the pieces as quickly as it used to. Age, what can one do, but I love it, it’s so nice not being “young” anymore, with all its little problems coming with it. Well, actually, I am in less physical pain than as a 21 year old, but therefor the brain ain’t as quick anymore…


  • Kate

    Hello Alban,

    Not a reply to your post as such but just a note to say i hope that you enjoy your visit to the UK! I am still in China and am beginning to miss home. Returning in a few months though so shouldn’t wish away my time! I hope that you get the chance to see some of the area around Kendal as it is so beautiful.

    Kate Whitfield.

  • Thomas Walter

    Hi Alban!
    Interesting to read about experiences with teaching ! … Well, actually I wanted to ask when the recordings of works by Reger is available? If I remember the right way it should be there at beginning of the year, but until now I didn’t hear anything from it.

  • Alban

    Hi Kate – yes, I know I will enjoy my time, always love to come to Manchester, but probably I won’t spend any time around Kendal, it’s the typical “in-and-out” kind of deal πŸ™ Enjoy China and its food!

    Hi Thomas, the Reger should be available as of now – two weeks ago in Washington some people already came to have it signed, but don’t worry, I didn’t get a copy neither. It’s on my page though, no sound bites yet, but the cover – the usual Hyperion painting thingy πŸ™‚

    Best wishes,

  • Glenn Garlick

    Hi, Alban,

    This is a belated thank you for all you did for the Kindler Cello Society while you were here.

    The students who played with you in the Bachianas Brasileiras #5 will remember it for the rest of their lives. They are already talking about the performance with anyone who will listen. Their parents have been sending me e-mails to express their appreciation for inviting their kids to participate…and I pass that on to you because it was your playing that made it so special for them. On a side note, my student, Eun Jin Kim (she sat next to me for the Bachianas), just loved your sense of humor. She is not talking about the performance as much as she is talking about all of the funny things you did and said. She is convinced that if things don’t work out for you with this cello playing thing, you can always get a job as a stand-up comedian!

    Thanks also for the master class. Several people have commented that it was very good that you played the students’ cellos for them. You were able to say things like: “Ah, this is more difficult on your cello,” or “I know there is more sound here if we just look for it.” The students could hear how much bigger and more focussed their cellos could sound if they followed your advice. And several of the listeners told me that they learned things they were eager to go home and try on their own cellos.

    Last, your performances of the Prokofieff Symphony Concerto with the NSO were an inspiration. The cello section is looking forward to your next visit.

    I hope all is well with you and I look forward to renewing our acquaintance in the near future.

    Sincerely, Glenn Garlick
    Assistant Principal Cellist, National Symphony Orchestra
    President, Kindler Cello Society

  • Kate

    Yes, Manchester is a great place! Very near to where i come from so close to my heart! Enjoy!


  • Thomas Walter

    O now i saw it, too. But the cover is much nicer than the one from the shostakovich release πŸ˜›

  • Yvonne

    I was at your concert in Birmingham, Friday night. I feel like I was blessed to hear you. I am so thankful my husband decided to take me to the symphony that night! I was so moved. I cannot believe that I have been a lover of classical music all my life and have never been to the symphony. I plan to buy season tickets from now on! I logged on to your website to find a place to purchase your CD and found your blog. I just had to tell you how much your talent touched me. Thank you so much.



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