Stjepan Hauser interview

Still in his early twenties, Croatian cellist Stjepan Hauser has already performed in the biggest venues in Europe, as the soloist with many major orchestras. Hauser is also a Youtube sensation in his own right: the video where he imitates great cellists (including Rostropovich, Yo Yo Ma and Jacqueline Du Pré) has received over 70,000 hits.

On Wednesday 13 January, he performs a solo concert as part of the Park Lane Group Young Artists New Year Series 2010 , a great opportunity to catch this up and coming artist. Tickets are available from Southbank centre’s website.

Tell us about the programme you will perform at the Park Lane Group Young Artists New Year Series concert.

At the PLG concert I will be performing three pieces that I have never played before, so this will be my performance debut of all of the pieces. The entire concert will be cello solo which is always very challenging for the performer. I will open the concert with two London premieres, Eric Tanguy’s Invocation and Geoffrey Poole’s On the High Wire. They are great pieces with a very clear structure and strong message for the listener, so I will do my best to pull out this message! The concert will finish with Zoltan Kodaly: Sonata for Cello Solo. That is truly a masterpiece with all those amazing effects and sounds and it is considered to be probably the hardest cello piece ever written. If the audience is pleased, I might play a few encores that I really love!

You are famous for your performances of some very romantic classical music pieces, but your repertoire also includes contemporary classical music. Is it important to you to have this range? What does it mean to you to perform contemporary classical pieces?

As a hopeless romantic, I was not very keen on performing contemporary music in the past, but lately I have been trying to change my attitude and push myself to perform more and more contemporary music. In fact I find that contemporary music that is written extremely well is better and more effective than any other music: very often it is atmospheric, full of expressions, effects and sounds that you never hear in classical pieces.

Contemporary music is also very important for the cello as an instrument because it expands the basic cello techniques and possibilities. It has allowed me to discover new possibilities for my instrument, with new and different techniques.
In a performer, contemporary classical music develops a completely different feel of structure, how to shape and form the piece and a different concept of sound. Also you have to use your imagination and make the piece as interesting as possible for the listener, which can be very hard with this kind of music sometimes. What the composer wanted to say with the piece is always most important, and you need to put it across.

How did you become such a popular youtube performer? Your video imitating the great cellists has nearly 70,000 hits!

I just put those imitations as a joke: I didn’t realise how popular they would be, especially in the cello world. When I fell in love with the cello in high school, I became totally obsessed with it and I used to listen to a lot of recordings of all the great cellists and learn a lot about them and their playing. Imitation is something I was always good at: not only imitating cellists, but some composers, pop singers, actors even some pianists and violinists too!

What next for you in 2010?

I have many different talents, but the one that I really think it is worth of developing is improvisation and creating my own music on cello. Cello is an instrument with endless possibilities and my wish is to explore them to the maximum extend. I don’t dare to share my ideas in public yet but I am working on it every day and hoping to start playing my own music on stage!

Tickets for Stjepan Hauser available here.

Quick Profile: Mark Stephenson, conductor of Peter & the Wolf Live on Stage

We interviewed Mark Stephenson, who is conducting Peter & the Wolf Live on Stage here 28 – 30 December. Read on to find out what makes him tick, how falling in a lake played a part in his conducting career, and how he came to be in a field near Reading with a whole pack of wolves…

Which mobile number do you call the most?
My Mum’s

What – or where – is perfection?
The Stars in The Sky

Who is your favourite hero from fiction (book/comic/film/opera) – and why?
Peter from Peter & the Wolf because he succeeded where the adults failed.

What’s your favourite ritual?
Taking a bubble bath

What do you fear the most?
Getting old

Which living person do you most admire (and why)?
Vivienne Westwood because she’s an icon and a genuine person.

What other talent or skill would you like to possess?

Tell us about a special memory you have of Southbank Centre
My first concert as a cellist in The Philharmonia under Maestro Riccardo Muti

If you could programme your ideal Southbank Centre show, which artists (living or dead) would you bring together?
Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Never Assume Anything

What is the most played piece of music on your MP3 player or in your CD collection?
Bach’s Goldberg Variations

Tell us more about how you became a conductor
When I was six my Dad took me to my first classical concert at the Kenwood Bowl where during Bizet’s Carmen Suite I wandered down to the Lake and fell in! When I got back home afterwards I found my Dad’s tail suit and tried it on, it was many sizes too big and the tails trailed across the carpet, but it looked rather good in the mirror – the rest is history! Dad used to read me Peter & The Wolf and I’ve grown up with the piece ever since. My other favourite story was The Happy Prince. I play the cello and the piano too and when I was a boy I sang in a choir at Cambridge touring all around the world and I got paid £5 for my first recording when I was 9. I first heard Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring at Tanglewood when I was 13. I knew after hearing this incredible music that orchestras would be my life. What a strange occupation conducting is, you don’t make any sound and you have your back to the audience!

And the wolf picture…
When I first conducted Peter & the Wolf Live on Stage with the Philharmonia Orchestra, we visited the Wolf Conservation Trust, just outside Reading, and that’s where I met Duma. It was a photoshoot in the rain, in the middle of a meadow. Strict instructions on what footwear not to wear to avoid becoming lunch!! A whole pack came out to greet me with a keeper – a bit scary at first!

Peter & the Wolf – Simon Armitage’s new script

Question: what do Mikhail Gorbachev, Sting, Sean Connery, Sir David Attenborough, David Bowie, Patrick Stewart, Sharon Stone, Terry Wogan, Captain Kangaroo, Dame Edna Everage, Mia Farrow and Bill Clinton have in common? No, unfortunately it isn’t the leaked line-up for the next series of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, in which we’ll cover our eyes as “Dave” Attenborough tucks into a par-boiled koala bear testicle. The unlikely answer is that they have all played the role of the narrator in Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, presumably with varying degrees of success…

Read Simon Armitage’s full article, in which he charts his up-and-down relationship with classical music and explains his approach to writing a new script for Peter & the Wolf.  

Buy tickets / watch extract from the film / more info

Sir Simon Rattle & Berliner Philharmoniker Now On Sale!

The London Concerts 2011

The Barbican Centre and Southbank Centre bring Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker to London for a series of concerts in February 2011.

Special offer

Book for all 4 concerts to receive an invitation to an exclusive post-concert drinks reception. Tickets to the reception are limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Bookers will be contacted in advance of the concerts with details.

Buy tickets / More Info

Just Announced: The London Concerts 2011

In an unprecedented partnership, the Barbican Centre and Southbank Centre bring Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker to London for a series of concerts in 2011.

Priority booking for Barbican and Southbank Centre members from 10am on Thursday 10 December

On sale to all from 10am on Monday 14 December

Book tickets / More info

Pictures success explodes throughout Europe!

Since the weekend Pictures Reframed has been performed in Stockholm, Hamburg and Munich and is coming to London at Queen Elizabeth Hall for a double-bill this Friday.

Reviews from Stockholm:

In Pictures at an exhibition, Andsnes moves smoothly between the explosive and the meditative, the energetic and the melancholic.’ (The Svenska Dagbladet)

‘In such a presentation there is a risk that the piano drowns. But Rhode’s associations are playful rather that dictating and Andsnes’ playing is so dynamic that it stands strong against the waves of images.’(Dagens Nyheter)

Reviews from Hamburg:

‘The spectators in the European premiere (of Pictures Reframed) were almost sucked into the movie as a theatrical experience.  In the hall, darkness rules.  The entire work of art somehow succeeds … and Andsnes and Rhode open a door to possible future experiments in the concert hall.’ (Die Welt)

Friday 4 December

Queen Elizabeth Hall

Pictures Reframed

Buy tickets / More info

The Night Shift Podcast

Hear the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s Podcast on their ground-breaking late-night concert series The Night Shift. The podcast includes reviews of October’s Night Shift featuring Yannick Nezet-Seguin himself, and looks forward to the next Night Shift, here at Southbank Centre this Saturday.

The Night Shift

Saturday 5 December

As part of Southbank Centre’s The Bernstein Project, project artistic director, Marin Alsop makes her The Night Shift debut and conducts Mozart’s Symphony No.40.

Buy tickets / More info