Saturday, May 12, 2018 9:30pm
Why did you choose to learn the cello?
Rather disappointingly, I can't claim that, aged six, I was consumed with a divine inspiration to play the cello! Instead, it was the obvious necessity to be different from my elder brother, who played the violin. He eventually switched to the viola, and then gave it all away entirely to become a singer, but I'm awfully glad I ended up playing the cello!
Can you tell us a bit about your cello?
My cello was made by the famous English luthier Thomas Kennedy in 1840 (the year Tchaikovsky was born!). The wood and varnish he used have darkened over the years, so that today it has an unusually swarthy appearance that many people feel the need to comment on (it has inspired some blushingly colourful adjectives from certain concert goers), but I must say that I love it for the gorgeous sound it makes. Many old English cellos have beautiful colours, but lack a certain amount of power. I've always loved that my Kennedy has those colours, but also a great deal of power.
Simon with Mozart, Puccini, Verdi and Beethoven
When did you know you’d make a career in music?
I was surprised recently when I found a little paragraph I wrote at the age of eight or nine saying that I'd like to be a doctor working in a country hospital, but I'm pretty sure I knew that music was the only thing I wanted to do from my early teens at the latest.
If you weren’t a professional musician, what would you do instead?
I really love to cook, but I'm a bit spoiled as an orchestral musician, and I suspect I'd need to harden up a great deal if I ever wanted to work in a professional kitchen!
How do you prepare for a performance?
The simplest answer would be, with a lot of practise! When she was a child, the great violinist Hilary Hahn once asked her teacher how often she needed to practise, to which her teacher replied, "Only on the days you're planning to eat". Sadly for a naturally lazy soul like myself, there's a lot of truth in that.
On the afternoon of a night time concert, I always try to sleep for an hour or so, and then keep everything around me very calm and quiet so that I can focus my thoughts for the evening.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
That would be very difficult to choose! Brahms German Requiem in St Paul's Cathedral with Kurt Masur and the London Philharmonic is a very special memory. ASO's Brahms First Symphony in 2016 was breath taking; I'm still not sure how Pinchas Zukerman was able to create such resplendence. Oh, and about four million chamber music experiences. Nope, too hard!
What is one of your favourite moments in the cello repertoire?
There really are quite a number of them... The closing bars of the Dvorak Cello Concerto with that heart breaking song quote really defies description. Maybe the trio from the scherzo of the Schubert C Major String Quintet?
Who have been your favourite conductors to work with?
Well, I must say that I've been blown away by Nicholas Carter's mastery of Brett Dean's gargantuan, labyrinthine Hamlet! I've loved everything I've done with Mark Wigglesworth, Pinchas Zukerman and Anthony Marwood. There have been some incredible concerts with Arvo Volmer. I have very special memories of Kees Bakels, Rafael Frubeck de Burgos, Stephen Deneve, Jukka Pekka Saraste, Jeffrey Tate and Bernard Haitink, among others.
How does playing with the ASO compare to other orchestras you’ve worked with?
Very well! ASO has excellent wind and brass players and a beautiful, rounded string sound. It's a very versatile band, and I've always been impressed at the enthusiasm and flexibility in trying out new ideas.
Which pieces are you most looking forward to in the ASO’s 2018 season?
Dean's Hamlet turned out to be very memorable indeed. I'm also really looking forward to Bruckner's Seventh Symphony (as part of Grace and Grandeur on 1 & 2 June), which I love and have never played before. Shostakovich Eighth and Sibelius Fifth should also be quite spectacular, and the Sibelius/Rachmaninov/Mussorgsky concert (Beyond Pictures on 22 & 23 June) with Arvo Volmer and Stephen Hough has me pretty excited.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
In no particular order, walking, reading, watching (and sometimes shouting at) the ABC and cooking (even better with friends!).
See Simon as soloist in our upcoming Mozart at Elder Two concert at Elder Hall on 23 May 2018.