Q&A

jg
Clemency Burton-Hill chats with Jean-Guihen Queyras
Where are you in the world ?
 
In Barcelona, and it's amazing! Such a fascinating city – I'm really enjoying it. I'm hoping to sneak out for an hour to jump on one of Barcelona's bikes and go to see the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's cathedral, between our rehearsal and concert.
 
I hear you've got a pretty manic schedule coming up ?
 
Yes, it's a crazy time! Over the next few weeks all the aspects of my life will be united: now I'm playing the Schumann concerto, the week after my wonderful colleagues in the Arcanto quartet are meeting, as we do six times per year. We're doing ten concerts, in places like Ghent, London and Madrid, and we're playing a huge programme – Beethoven Razumovsky, Brahms B-flat, the Britten… Then I go to Hamburg for a residency, to play a programme that is totally new for me, of Haydn, Bartók and Lutoslawski. Plus I have to prepare two solo pieces for them. I'm also editing some recordings, and re-doing my website. And I also have a family and three kids back in Freiburg, so…!
 
Phew! I'm amazed you have time to do any sightseeing!
 
Generally I really love to go and see the wonderfulness of the places where I'm performing, so if it's ever possible I will try to squeeze in an extra day here or there to explore. I think it's really important.
 
What's the hardest thing about this job ?
 
It's not really a job, it's pure passion! No, the big downside is how much I miss my kids, Jérémie, Yolène and Antonio. But, you know, the upside trumps the downside! And whenever I can I will bring them with me. Last summer I was at the Concertgebouw and everyone came for a week. It's wonderful when we can bring together several pieces of the puzzle.
 
When did you know you wanted to be a professional cellist ?
 
I started late, at 9 years old; before that I was only interested in football. I went to a concert in which my brother was playing the violin, I heard someone play the cello, and it really was love at first sight. A coup-de-foudre. I became obsessed.
 
Who was your greatest inspiration ?
 
My first cello teacher, Claire Rabier, who lived about 15km from where my parents had a house, in Manosque-en-Provence. She was the most wonderful pedagogue, incredibly intelligent and always had the right images – I remember her teaching me how to hold my bow, as if I there was a little bird inside and I must not crush it. Very quickly she had all her students playing together in ensembles: duos, quartets, and it was really a great atmosphere.
 
And that love of playing in chamber music clearly continues to this day ?
 
Yes, I loved the social aspect of it from when I was so young; how you integrate with others, how you shape things, how you attain the right balance. Like all balances, you have to work at it all the time. A quartet is a very special thing and I'm very lucky, I get to do it with people I love, who are on the same wavelength.
 
How important is it to you to keep up the balance of chamber and solo work ?
 
Chamber music will always be in my life but balancing always means adjusting and right now I am probably adjusting to play more solo works.
 
What's the highlight of your musical career so far ?
 
Last April I had an experience that felt like some sort of pinnacle. I played Dvorák's concerto in the Rudolfinum in Prague, with Jiri Belohlavek, and something about that combination – the king of our concertos, with the great Czech master of the moment, in the hall that Dvorák inaugurated with his huge sculpture outside and the sense of history was unbelievably special.
 
Do you have a favourite musical period ?
 
No, I'm as happy doing a contemporary premiere as I am performing baroque music on period instruments and gut strings. The mix has to be right but it has to be a mix: I honestly think that with my personality, my playing is better when I do all these things. If I was more monolithic in my repertoire, my interpretations would not be the same.
 
What are you reading ?
 
The autobiography of Claude Lanzmann, the filmmaker who made Shoah, called Le Lièvre de Patagonie. It's fascinating.
 
What are your hobbies outside of music ?
 
I love movies – a passion I am sharing with my eldest son, Jérémie. We've been watching a whole series of Truffaut movies together. I am also crazy about all aspects of Japan, especially the food – it always starts with the food – and their films. And because I spend so much time sitting, I need physical exercise. I do lots of sports: football, biking, basketball. As a family we love nature: we go for days to the mountains, often the Southern French Alps and sleep up there.
 
It's the last night of the world; what do you play ?
 
Bach's cello suites.
 
 
par Yutha Tep - décembre 2001
par Nicolas Baron - Mai 2009
par Patrick Jacquemot - janvier 2010
von Arnt Cobbers - Mai 2010
janvier 2011
Clemency Burton-Hill - mars 2011
2009
Magazine Diapason - Juin 2012