Who had his room plastered with Shostakovich posters when he was twelve? That guy! *Leonard Elschenbroich flashes a smile & points his thumbs to his chest*. Who recorded Shostakovich's Viola Sonata transcribed for cello for his upcoming disc? That guy! Who thinks it’s more important to preserve classical music’s existing, core audience rather than woo newbies? That guy! OC spoke to German cellist Leonard Elschenbroich for her latest Grazia.it column, English translation below the cut!
As a child, Leonard Elschenbroich heard J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite in C Major on the stereo and was so overcome with emotion that his mother bought him a cello. He picked up the bow at five-years-old and five years later, the German cellist, born in Frankfurt in 1985, went to London for a Yehudi Menuhin School scholarship. Hard study, influential collaborations and many awards later, he’s one of the brightest cellists playing today. When he’s not performing as a soloist, he's playing with his chamber music partners -- Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti and Russian pianist Alexei Grynyuk. Between concerts in Frankfurt, Elschenbroich spoke to Grazia.it about his musical heroes, his new CD launching in April, his latest tour and his role as a BBC New Generation Artist.
Who are your role models?
At twelve, I was obsessed with Shostakovich. My room was plastered with his posters. Of course, you can’t find posters of 20th century Russian composers in the stores so I had to make my own -- one poster was a blow-up of a 1975 postage stamp. I've read everything about him and I loved the movie about his life, Testimony, directed by Tony Palmer. Then when I was fifteen, Bob Dylan became my idol. I've been to a few of his live concerts, but it's my dream to meet him.
Right now you're wrapping up a special "The Silver Violin" tour with your trio partners, Benedetti and Grynyuk. How’s it going?
The tour's been great and we've played in gorgeous music halls. The first half of the concert is selections from Benedetti’s new CD and then I play the Tchaikovsky Trio in the second half, which we'll record next month for a CD. It's one of my favorite pieces of chamber music. It’s also the first piece we played together as a trio, five years ago.
Your new CD launches in the UK at the end of April and the rest of Europe in May. How was the recording process and how did you choose the works?
It was recorded last November over three days in a remote, east England village. It was in a converted barn, freezing, in the middle of nowhere. Because there was an absence of outside noise -- no planes, no cars, no trains, no phone signal -- there was absolute quiet, which really helped me get into a creative zone. When you record, you don't have an audience to help you get into the spirit or into the intensity so you really have to dig deep within yourself to find it for the duration of the recording session.
Regarding the pieces, the Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata in G minor was our main piece of the last 3 year so it seemed natural to include it. Shostakovich's Viola Sonata comes from my deep love of his music. Since it's scored originally for the viola, it hasn't been recorded much for the cello. It was a wonderful opportunity to record a real masterpiece that hasn't already been done dozens of times. Except for Daniil Shafran [a Russian cellist who made the cello arrangement with Shostakovich’s blessing], there hasn't really been a major recording of it.
Last year you were chosen as a BBC New Generation Artist, a program that nurtures young and exceptional talent. What’s your idea on bringing younger audiences to the concert halls?
While it's very important to get younger generations into classical music, it's not the most important thing. It’s important to preserve and respect the audience that we have. At the same time, we need to continue to educate young people and nurture an interest in classical music so that when they reach a certain age, they will have had the same musical education that the people have who are now in the concert halls.