As to the future of music...

Robert Cohen's interview for the newspaper of Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana.

We know that you have been student of the great cellist and pedagogue William Pleeth, died in the April of the ' 99. Do you want to describe to us that type of cellistic school?

Here is part of an article I wrote for the Strad Magazine about William Pleeth:

"What made him so unique was that he made you very aware of how precious the music was and how you need to share it with the listener: music is all about communication. Anyone who ever met him felt that they had been touched by an extraordinary personality. He was a very giving, loving person; you felt he was literally hugging you with his warmth."

William Pleeth gave each student individually crafted disciplines to help fulfil their personal potential. He worked intensively with me to find the deepest musical meaning in every piece. Alongside this constant musical search was a highly sophisticated approach to technical development. Pleeth believed there were no boundaries as to the kind of sounds that should come from the cello.

How you would define your current cello school?

I have developed many principles in the way I teach: 

The first is that all interpretation of music and study of instrumental skills, even from the early stages, should be related to and focussed on a final concert performance. In a very precise way, I teach my students to practice the art of performing, not to take their practice onto the stage.

I believe that music is a form of speech, that the cello is a vehicle to express the language of music in the most defined, eloquent and powerful way. This means I work with my students on highly detailed technical skills to fulfil the music's infinite requirements.

I teach the art of relaxation, focussed concentration and a natural, balanced physical unity with the instrument. I prove that all technical problems have simple and quick solutions; in my classes I explain the methods to analyse and rectify problems of all sorts in a concise, positive and optimistic way.

My reason for being a musician is my love and passion for music. I believe that music students should be constantly inspired by their lessons and constantly challenged to perform at their best.

Ultimately, I teach my students to teach themselves, to be their greatest critics and to find music constantly inspiring and life enhancing.

The critics have defined you as "one of the best young cellist of the our time", you have recorded for the more important record houses, played with the greatest orchestras... There is some project that still you want to realise with the cello? 

Music to me is about experiencing an art that lifts us to higher levels of sensitivity, awareness and most importantly, emotion. I believe that because children today are so well targeted by promotion of new fashions, pop music, computers and toys, they are unaware that all the classical art forms (classical music, visual art, literature, poetry and dance), with their history stretching back centuries, can be intensely valuable to the quality of their lives. I have a passion to expose young children to the music I adore and to let them see and hear why so many people for hundreds of years have valued classical music so highly.

Do you have founded in England a festival of chamber music, the Charleston Manor Festival, and recently a multicultural plan for the city of London. Your is a wide interest for the culture or the activity of cellist soloist/pedagogue is restrictive for you? 

I see teaching and performing music as the ideal way to bring people, different cultures and art forms together. This is why I enjoy incorporating the planning of special projects into my life.

What do you know of Lugano and Ticino? 

I only know Lugano for it's beauty (as a tourist) and for it's orchestra's fine reputation. Of course more recently I discovered the unique Conservatorio and the exceptional and progressive attitude of its director and staff. This certainly puts Lugano on the musical map.

How is your relationship with contemporary music and, if possible, one forecast, an intuition on " music of the future ". 

I am often involved in performing contemporary music, sometimes written especially for me. It is an essential part of my life. I feel that as long as composers have a genuine and individual voice or language, there will be a place for their music.

As to the future of music, I think we are entering an exciting time when live music will clearly take centre stage, rather than commercial recordings. For this, we need musicians with imagination and flair. I also think we are learning to appreciate that classical music is better suited to the intimacy of smaller concert halls and that the music industry must be actively involved in promoting music, not just looking to promote itself.

In order to end, considered that you begin just in these months your engagement like teacher to the CSI, can you delineate us the dowries and the characteristics of the ideal student, for put in guard all the candidates of your new and, certainly, prestigious class of cello? 

I would like my students to come to my class with:
1. a hunger to learn.
2. an open mind, so that they can join me in the exploration of music and the many ways to communicate it. 
3. the desire to work hard and to give and take from the special environment that we will create together in the class.
4. the hope that they will find their own musical voice and fulfil their potential.
5. A sense of excitement and fun in anticipation of our journey together.

interviewRobert Cohen