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Interview with cellist Daniel Müller-Schott

Friday, 15 October 2010 , ora 11.29

On October 7th, 2010, the audience had the chance to listen at Radio Romania Music to the live broadcast of the concert performed by the Orchestre National de France conducted by Kurt Masur and having Daniel Müller-Schott as cello soloist. The programme was dedicated to the work of Robert Schumann, through the overture Genoveva, Cello and Orchestra Concerto in A minor and Symphony No. 2 in C major.

We had the chance to find more information about this concert, but also about a successful soloist and chamber career, from the cellist born in Munich in 1976, Daniel Müller-Schott.

At the age of five you listened for the first time to the Cello Concerto by Schumann, performed by Yo-Yo Ma. What do you remember of that time?

First impression was in fact a revelation. Because my mother has been a music player, I have participated since I was five years old to many orchestra rehearsals and, indeed, the first soloist concert I listened to was the Cello Concerto by Schumann. I was enchanted by the pitch of the instrument and by its capacities, so I really wanted to learn to play the cello. I am so very lucky that I can now perform this concert.

Since childhood you have had contact with Bach's music. How did you discover it and what role did Bach play in your development as a musician?

Bach's music has been known to me from an early age, because my mother has been harpsichordist and has intensively studied this composer's music. Since I was a child I have listened to works such as Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (The Well-Tempered Clavier) or Six concerts à plusieurs instruments (Brandenburg Concertos). When I was six–seven years old I began playing the Unaccompanied Cello Suites by Bach and, over the years, I have studied all six of them. Then I have had them recorded on CD, I have played them in concerts, and the performance of the entire cycle of suites has always been an extraordinary experience.

At the age of fifteen you won Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky International Competition at Moscow. Was this a decisive moment in your career?

Yes, I can say this was a decisive moment in my career. Thus, I discovered that the soloist career was the way that suited me the best, because at that age I could imagined other careers to follow too. But after I was awarded this prize, I knew that I can take the risk of becoming a soloist and that this is the way I have to follow. I was very happy back then, because I started receiving invitations to perform in concerts, and that was how everything began.

You studied, for example, with Mstislav Rostropovich or Steven Isserlis. To what extent have these professors influenced you?

They very much influenced me. I had contact with very different schools. On one side, the French School through André Navarra or my first professors, Walter Nothas and Heinrich Schiff, at Vienna, on the other side the English School represented by Steven Isserlis, which helped me to approach the English repertoire, for example it helped me for the works of Elgar, Walton or Britten. These and the privilege of meeting and working with a personality as Mstislav Rostropovich, a reference name for the music history, were unique occasions. I had the chance to meet him also as a conductor and I missed no occasion when he taught or performed in concerts in Germany. After that I took lessons and everything went on very unconventionally, because he gave me a lot of his time and I, as a young cellist, availed myself of that favour.

Rostropovich said that the performer should be a messenger of the composer, that he or she should assimilate the works performed so that to reflect new features of the music at every performance. This has become a credo for me too, to start every time from something new and to try to be creative.

You perform again under the baton of conductor Kurt Masur. What could you tell us about this collaboration?

I am very glad. Several years ago, I have performed the Violin and Cello Double Concert by Brahms, led by him and accompanied by Anne Sophie Mutter. She has supported me for a long time and through this relationship I have come to meet also the master, Masur. I played for him for the first time when I was seventeen–eighteen years old and ever since he has guided me in my career, then, at a certain point, our first collaboration followed. I listened, of course, his numerous recordings, I also took part at rehearsals and I can tell you that for me he represents an important chapter of the history of German music. As to this concert by Schumann, Kurt Masur is the best support I can ever think of. The collaboration of this evening with this conductor is a new musical opportunity for me.

You know very well the Cello Concert by Schumann. You have had it recorded on CD in 2009. Could you share your vision on this work?

This is of course a maturity work of Schumann and therefore is very complex, because the feelings are very different. I think this is a psycho-gram of Schumann the composer and the human being. If we analyse the contrasts of the first movement, the inner conflict and the uncertainty which were characteristic of Robert Schumann the human being at that time, we see that all these are reflected in music. For me, the Concerto in A minor is one of the masterpieces of the instrumental literature and we, the cellists, are grateful that we can perform and pass on this work.

You have mentioned earlier the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. How has been your professional relation with her since 1992 when you met and till now?

We always have had a warm relation. I played for her shortly after I won Tchaikovsky Competition at Moscow, that is when I was fifteen years old, and I noticed that since then she has seen me as a colleague, as a musician. Her confidence in me and all the support she gave me were truly special. She has always knew with pinpoint accuracy, for example, the age when a contact with Rostropovich could be set, the age when a better instrument is needed, always giving the best pieces of advice. Over the years, a musical friendship has also born and we often play together, for which I am grateful to her.

Apart from your intense soloist work, the chamber music has an important place in your career. Who are your favourite partners?

It is very hard to tell. There are many interesting combinations with various musicians with who I would like to play with, but it is hard to choose someone. As trio, I work very well with Anne-Sophie Mutter and André Previn, but also with young generation musicians, such as Julia Fischer and Bella Steinbacher. There are many schools, personalities from whom many things can be learned. I think that the chamber music is the most intimate form of this art and the collaboration with various partners is always an artistic benefit.

Could you share with us a few ideas of the Rhapsody in School Project?

Yes, this project was an initiative of the pianist Lars Vogt, who has noticed that music does not play a leading role as a course in schools and then he suggested me to collaborate. I play for children, and on this occasion I present my instrument too, thus trying to pass on to them some of my love for classical music and composers. Over the years, I have continued to participate regularly in this project not only in Germany, but also in other countries in Europe and I believe that it has developed in a very good sense.

Where will you perform in concerts in the following period?

After the performance in Paris, I will resume the programme I have recently played together with Robert Kulek in Montreal, a recital with works by Brahms, Schubert and Shostakovich, then the Concert by Schumann in Milan, in Italy. At the end of October, I will play the Cello Symphony by Britten at Oslo under the baton of Jukka-Pekka Saraste.

Thank you and we hope we will have the chance to hear you in Romania too.

Yes, I hope I will come someday in Bucharest. I have heard a lot about the concert rooms, as well as about the orchestras, and I would like to have the chance to perform in concert in your city.
Andreea Chiselev
Translated by Mirela Oprina and Andreea Velicu
MA Students, MTTLC, Bucharest University