Monday, September 19, 2016 11:30am
Meet Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Cello, Simon Cobcroft – the ASO's Principal Cellist who will perform Elgar’s Cello Concerto at the Master Series concert at Adelaide Town Hall, September 23-24 – has performed with London’s Philharmonic Orchestra and the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and joined the ASO in 2014. He caught up with Sophie Perri to talk scary auditions, favourite performers, and his other obsession aside from the cello – food.
Photo credit: Kylie Fleming
What have you been up to today?
Well, I want to tell you I’ve been practising all day…but life got in the way of it. This is kind of the musician’s weekend, so I’ve been doing a million different things. But I’ll practise all night. I’d ban all morning rehearsals if I were in charge of the world. Though most professional orchestras are pretty well-looked after and won’t often start before 10am so I shouldn’t complain.
Do you get to relax in the evening at all, watch TV...?
I try not to be too inactive but I’m a big one for shouting at the ABC in the evening, getting angry at Q&A.
You’ve been playing in orchestras for how many years now?
Well, playing in professional orchestras for, gosh, almost 20 years … but I’ve been playing the cello since I was six.
It would have been bigger than you.
Yeah, well, I played on a little half-size cello.
Photo credit: Shane Reid
How did you start playing?
I want to tell you it was all inspiration...but it was because my brother played the violin. And mum said I had to play something.
So you had musical genes?
Both my parents were doctors. It’s not uncommon for musicians, for some reason, it seems to go hand-in-hand...maybe it’s a similar sort of discipline, I don’t know. I think mum would have been a musician. She ended up being a stage mum instead – in the best sense. She made me practise, which I resented at the time, but I’m glad she did now.
What kind of kid were you?
I suppose you’d have to ask other people that question. I was a model child, of course! I think I was a pretty normal kid. I always really loved music and I loved playing the cello, but loving it is different to wanting to spend hours working really hard at it.
What’s a common misconception about the ASO, or orchestras in general?
Well, there are lots, but I think probably the most common one is...you get accosted carrying your instrument somewhere in public and it’s usually after you’ve played a concert, then someone who’s been to the concert comes up and says, ‘So ahh – is that what you do?’ ‘Yep’. ‘They pay ya?’ ‘Yep’. ‘But what’s your actual job?’ ‘No, no, this is my job’. ‘But what do you do during the day?’ ‘This’. ‘Oh so, you play when you’re not doing the shows at night?’ A lot of people don’t understand how this can be a fulltime job.
Photo credit: Shane Reid
What’s the scariest audition you’ve had?
I think it’s probably important to note that they’re all absolutely terrifying. You play excerpts from orchestral works, so...whereas somebody like Richard Strauss who was the most incredible orchestrator and knew how to make an orchestra sound like a million bucks, he didn’t write, for instance, the cello part of Don Juan to sound good by itself. And it doesn’t. Basically every audition you have to play the first page of Don Juan on your own in front of a panel of experts who are specifically turning their attention to picking out mistakes so they can cut a candidate out ... so auditions take a toll.
The ASO has worked with some top mainstream artists – Missy Higgins has been announced for later this year, you’ve played with Hilltop Hoods...who stands out?
Maybe the best performer I ever sat on the stage with, not necessarily the best singer or pianist or dancer...was Harry Connick Jr. Just overall the most absolutely consummate performer...incredibly experienced, huge charisma, he knew exactly what to do.
Do you get to chat to them?
A little bit. These people spend large parts of their life getting mobbed so I try not to contribute to the problem.
So you’ve never been tempted to ask for an autograph or a selfie?
The odd one. I did get a photo with Margaret Pomeranz the other week because, how could I not.
What’s something you love as much as the cello?
Food. I bought an apartment on Sturt St so I’m dangerously close to the Central Market. I can’t avoid the cheese shops. The Asian green grocers...I make a good Rendang. I spend a lot of time in Cafe Troppo.
And the cello you play is from 1840?
It was made in London in 1840 by a guy called Thomas Kennedy, one of the best known old English luthiers. It stands out in the orchestra because it’s very dark, the other cellos are made with lighter wood. I bought it in Chicago after having looked for a cello for three years. I got $20,000 knocked off the price. It stopped me from owning a house for quite some time, but it’s worth it.
Photo credit: Shane Reid
Cellist Simon Cobcroft enjoys a diverse life as a performer of solo, orchestral and chamber music in Australia and further afield. Since 2014 he has been Principal Cello with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, and has also held the positions of Associate Principal Cello with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra (2012-2014), and Sub-Principal Cello with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (2003-2011). He is a founding member of the Lyrebird Trio, winners of the Piano Trio and Audience prizes at the 2013 Asia Pacific Chamber Music Competition, and resident at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and at the Center for the Arts in Banff, Canada.
Simon is a graduate of the Queensland Conservatorium (2000) and the Australian National Academy of Music (2003). Since that time, he has been a frequent guest performer with London's Philharmonia Orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony, Denmark’s Esbjerg Ensemble, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and as principal with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. He has performed as principal cello and chamber musician at, among others, the Aldeburgh, Pacific and Salzburg Music Festivals.
Simon was featured as soloist with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in Saint-Saëns A Minor Cello Concerto in 2015. In previous years he has appeared as soloist with the Malaysian Philharmonic (Tan Dun, D’Indy), Sydney’s Metropolitan Orchestra (Brahms, Beethoven), Orchestra Victoria (Elgar, Shostakovich no.2) and at the Musici Artis Festival, Brussels (Dvorak).
Simon studied with Matthew Farrell, Janis Laurs, Alexander Baillie, David Strange and Michael Goldschlager. He plays on a beautiful English cello made in 1840 by Thomas Kennedy.
This article was written by City Messenger Reporter Kylie Fleming and was first published on the City Messenger website on 7 September. This article was re-posted by Michelle Robins, Publications & Communications Coordinator, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. For the full article in the City Messenger (7 Sep 2016), visit http://messenger.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx
Elgar’s Cello Concerto
Fri 23 Sep 8pm
Sat 25 Sep 6.30
ADELAIDE TOWN HALL
Really looking forward to Elgar this weekend.