One of the greatest works for cello 

On the evening of 7 August, we will hear the sensitive British cellist Steven Isserlis and Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie perform Dvořák’s Concerto for Cello, composed in America in 1895.  The work is regarded as one of the greatest compositions ever written for this instrument. Johannes Brahms, whose Symphony No. 1 will also be performed on 7 August, is said to have exclaimed enthusiastically after reading the score: “Why did I not know that a cello concerto like this could be written? If I had known, I would have written one a long time ago!” The first movement begins with the memorable main theme, and a melodic dialogue soon develops between the late cello and the orchestra. The second movement, dominated by longing and homesickness, quotes melodies from “Leave me alone”, the favourite song of Dvořák’s sister-in-law, who died in spring 1895. The third movement begins calmly, but gradually builds up to a captivating interplay of tempo, calm and intensity, only to fade away gently in a sensitive foreboding of painful longing.

In the run-up to the concert, Klosters Music was able to talk to the well-known cellist about Dvořák’s Cello Concerto and his collaboration with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, among other things.

Much has been written about the Dvořák cello concert and its place in the pantheon of the repertoire.  In your view, what makes it such a great work?

The Dvořák concerto was, I think, the first classical piece of music with which I truly fell in love – so I’ve lived with it for a long time! And I love it even more now than i did then. It has everything – heroism, joy, tragedy, a plethora of gorgeous melodies and a folk-like simplicity of spirit that allows it to speak directly from the heart.

What is it about your musical relationship with DKB that is so special?

The DKB is a very, very special orchestra. Every time I play with them, it is as if we’re playing chamber music. Each member of the orchestra is fully committed to the music they play – extraordinary.

Which book have you most enjoyed reading during lockdown?

Hmmm…I’ve read quite a lot – novels, spy thrillers, non-fiction, etc. Since several books were by people I know, and I don’t want to offend anyone by not mentioning them, maybe I will just go for Silas Marner by George Eliot. What a writer!

Your on-line masterclasses have been immensely popular – is this a format that you will use in the future?

Well, I’d prefer live classes – but I’m happy for them to be filmed. I so much enjoy working with young people – it feels like both a duty and a pleasure.