Alban's Blog

Time flies, and some cellist is getting lazier and lazier

alban-gerhardt-mit-familie-berkel_cmc2.jpgActually I wanted to write at least a little bit of something after last week’s Brahms Double in Berlin with the RSB, again Marek Janowski and lovely Arabella Steinbacher, especially since it is always very meaning- and also stressfull and special for me to play in my hometown, in “my” hall, the Berliner Philharmonie in which I have heard so many unbelievable concerts, seen the greatest players and conductors, in short: where I received my musical training, at least partly.Thinking of the musicians I have had a chance to hear in there, just to name a few of the real good, dead ones: Vladimir Horowitz, Claudio Arrau (he even kissed me on my forehead :)), Emil Gilels, Pierre Fournier, Paul Tortelier, obviously Mstislav Rostropovich, conductors like H.v.Karajan, Jochum, Giulini and so many others – sooo lucky having grown up in this amazing city with wonderful orchestras performing more or less 10 concerts each week.

I never dreamt of becoming one of the people standing on this stage, and until today it feels unreal and I remember me as the little white-blond boy, sitting behind the orchestra in the choir seats, being drawn into the world of orchestra music. This must be also the reason why I get most nervous performing there. So many memories, so much respect for a simple hall. For me it is just more than another hall, it’s more like a cathedral – music is my religion, and the Philharmonie is my church 🙂

Anyway, I really enjoyed the Brahms; the orchestra played their hearts out, Arabella did beautifully in her second performance of this piece and I just tried not to let the others down – playing in front of prominent people as my own wife and son, and yes, Christoph Eschenbach was there as well as the German actor-couple Andrea Sawatzki and Christian Berkel whom I met once at a party and we became friends since (he is starring in the “Valkyrie” movie which is coming out in December). The difficulty of the Brahms Double is the fact that the cello and the violin have to feel like one instrument (Brahms called it a “Riesengeige”, a giant violin), which means we have to listen very much to each other while at the same time having to play out as much as possible because the balance is not easy with a rather thick and heavy orchestra part.

Somehow Arabella and me found a good balance, at least this is what people tried to make us believe, and yes, we on stage have no idea if we managed, because the sound of especially the old Italian string instruments tends to carry differently. We never know if and how well we match, we entirely depend on outside comments, which at times can be frustrating. Sometimes I would love to step into the hall and hear how we actually sound out there, like a painter stepping away from his painting and seeing it from far. No, recordings don’t do the trick, because we are always miked too closely – we will never ever know how we sound in the back of the hall.

Yesterday I got back from a mini-tour with the radio orchestra of Saarbrücken, playing twice the Saint-Saens Concerto, together with a young and wonderful Spanish conductor with the unusual name Pablo Gonzalez 🙂 A real talent, the orchestra liked him a lot and he accompanied me wonderfully. I was indeed inspiring to be able to express whatever I felt in the moment, not having to worry about being together or not – he took care of that. We had a great time together and I am sure one will hear a lot about this young man.

Oh, I read a big interview this morning in a German paper with a wonderful singer (no names…) and she said such truthful things about the music business and the falling listening standards. Confronted with the accusations that her interpretation in La Traviata was not really a Verdi-Traviata, she countered the best way possible: read the score and realized that there are many articulations and dynamics which are not being followed by the every-day Traviata-interpretation, and that she tried to get to the ground. Her answer was wonderful, but the arrogance and ignorance of the question really saddened me, because at least the journalists should have an open ear and be happy that there are some thinking singers who try to capture what a composers might have intended instead of just singing as loud and obvious as possible….


  • Michael Chen

    Hi Alban:
    Thanks for educating me about the “Riesengeige” aspect of the Brahms Double and you ‘re right on regarding the Singer’s interview. Making music should always be a dynamic give and take journey……at best a never ending discovery. By the way, being lazy can be a very good and necessary thing in an artist’s life! So don’t shy from it!! 😉


  • Eileen Boden

    Dear Alban

    We have lost your email address, and are reduced to leaving messages on your blog.
    Happy that your career is doing so well. We hear really good cmments on the BBC radio3 CD review programmes.
    Very sadly, it is impossible for us to manage your date at the Wigmore hall this week, but we send every good wish for Wednesday, and indeed to all the family for Christmas.

    Please give us your email address some time – I suspect this is a public website.

    Uli & Eileen

  • David Nice

    Heartfelt congratulations on your Ravel/Messiaen programme last night – no doubt that was the place to be on centenary evening. There aren’t many players in the world who could match Karii Kriikku’s solo, but you and Viviane Hagner absolutely did. Plenty of tears in all three of those crucial movements.

    As for the resplendent Mr. Osborne, well, I’m dropping Tristan Act 2 like a hot cake on Saturday to go and hear his Vingt Regards.

    Do you have a nice photo of all four of you together for my blog? You can e-mail it above if you’d be so kind.

    I’ve heard so many great things this year, but none greater than that.

    Very best wishes,


  • David Nice

    Well, I’ve done something without a photo of you four – I guess you’re very much on the road at the moment – but the first link fails because I got distracted before putting .com. So try the above.

    Still thinking about it, and looking forward to SO’s Vingt regards. Are you all recording the Quatuor? I don’t want to hear any other performance for a while after that.


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