Exploring the full potential of the cello

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Dvořák’s Cello Concerto brings UK-based German-born cellist Leonard Elschenbroich to the Brighton Dome on Saturday, November 9 at 7.30pm.

He will perform with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a programme which will also include Rossini’s William Tell Overture and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 (Italian)

For Leonard, the Dvořák brings out all that’s great about his chosen instrument: “The Dvořák really captures the nature of the cello and the nature of the personality of the cellist. There is something very specifically cellistic about the nature of the piece. All cellists tend to agreed that there is something that speaks to us cellists.

“It is the way that he wrote for the cello that displays the capabilities of the instrument. He really took the cello to be on the same level as the violin. Schumann challenged the abilities of the cello before that. The Schumann concerto is extremely difficult, but it is not generally as impressive as the Dvořák. The Dvořák displayed the potential of the cello in a more thankful way.

“By the nature of the cellist in a quartet, it is very separate, but what lends itself to the cello is the timbre and the kind of expression and the kind of virtuosity. Violin virtuosity is about lightness and ease and silver brilliance. Virtuosity on the cello is more heavy-handed and trickier, but Dvořák really captures the way that it should be on a cello.”

Is the cello an extension of the cellist?

Leonard admits it is hard to say which comes first: “Most of us don’t choose it at an age where we are able to make that decision. I was five years old. I was just given one and started playing it. If you keep playing it and become good, then maybe it is because you were meant to play it, but I think that you also adapt to the nature of it and adapt to what the cello demands that you become.

“If I had been made to play the violin when I was young, I would be a different person today. I would look different, I would have different hands, I would have a different personality. But I don’t think I would have made a very good violinist!”

Leonard came to this country to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School at the age of 11, from 1996-1999: “I left when I was 14 and went back to Germany for eight years, and then came back here about five years ago. Almost all the Yehudi Menuhin School people want to come back, but there is something very addictive about being in the UK, and the place just really grows on you once you have lived there as a child – even though I left the Yehudi Menuhin School quite early. I didn’t feel it was the right place for me once I started to play concerts. It became a bit claustrophobic.

“But when I was here as a child, They were the nicest years of my childhood. Having travelled all over the world in the past five years, I would still always choose to live in London. That’s where I would want to be.”