Long live live music!
An amusing yet insightful interview with Robert Cohen, in advance of his concert in Cambridge.
Robert Cohen is regarded as one of the most inspiring musicians in the world, and will be playing at the Cambridge Corn Exchange's International Concert Series, which starts in September. Nick Jordan asks what inspires Robert and get's the reply: 'Long live live music!'
Q: When did you know that you wanted to be a professional musician?
A: Aged three, I was desperate to play the cello. After two and half years of nagging my parents for a cello, they conceded, realising it was not a whim after all! By eight, I knew I wanted to be a cellist, which on the surface sounds ridiculous, but not only could I see what a life in music could be – my parents were professional musicians – but most importantly I found playing the cello easy, exciting, stimulating and fulfilling. May I say how extraordinarily fortunate I consider myself to have been, having my life path mapped from such an early age.
Q: Why the cello?
A: The sound! I was drawn by the warm, enveloping bass and the range to soar high in the melodic treble. A voice that could say so much.
Q: You play an 'Ex Roser' cello. What does that mean?
A: Some of history’s great string instruments have bee named after their illustrious owners. My cello – made by David Tecchler in Rome, 1723 – was once owned by a Mr Roser.
Q: Professional classical musicians have a reputation for being a bit feisty and independent. Is that fair, or just a stereotype?
A: I think anyone who spends most of their lives touring the world alone with a passion to convince every audience that they have some profound thoughts and feelings to communicate is likely to be considered feisty and independent. You wouldn’t put yourself under this intense spotlight if you didn’t have demanding standards and the pressure is bound to bring out some interesting traits!
Q: You've worked with some of the best conductors in the world. In your opinion and experience as a player, what makes a great conductor?
A: A true musician. One who puts his great talent to the service of the music and who knows how to inspire his fellow musicians to play out-of-their-skins.
Q: What's your favourite classical music recording, and why?
A: When I was a teenager, I wore out an LP of the Debussy String Quartet played by the Guarneri Quartet. It was a musical language I was entranced by; passionate, serene and powerful. The Guarneri’s performance was stunning, riveting and sublime. Since then, I’ve found all recordings of transitory interest, always wanting to hear how the performance would continue developing. Long live live music!
Q: What discs are on your CD player right now?
A: Mendelssohn ‘Italian’ Symphony. Having finished preparing for my own performances conducting it this week, I was interested to hear the interpretation of the wonderful Bernard Haitink. However after that, I put back on an old favourite: a CD of Egberto Gismonti, the fabulous Brazilian jazz pianist – no offence Bernard!
Q: What music makes you happiest?
A: I think that’s an impossible one for me to pin down. So much music brings me an enormous range of emotions and I suppose that range swings with my mood.
Q: When are you at your best?
A: Usually after I‘ve finished practising the cello; good, positive and happy.
Q: Radio 3 or Classic FM?
A: Classic FM when there’s ancient choral music on Radio 3. Radio 3 when Classic FM is playing single movements of the classical pops.
Courtesy of Cambridgeshire Agenda, www.thecambridgeagenda.co.uk
The Cambridge Corn Exchange's International Concert Series begins in September 2006, and continues into May 2007.