Shostakovich: Cello Concertos (Hyperion, 2020) is your most recent album. What was your inspiration?
The essential cello concertos of the 20th century were written for Mstislav Rostropovich, the most important cellist of all time for me. He inspired Shostakovich to write two concertos for him, and his performances have been the blueprint for most cellists. But although Shostakovich wrote them for him and worked them with him, I feel these pieces slightly different and thus have come up with an interpretation quite different to Rostropovich’s which I am happy to have manifested in this recording. I believe that Rostropovich, with his bigger-than-life personality, amazing sound and charisma, played these works so convincingly that Shostakovich would not have dreamt of arguing with the outcome, although he might have had something different in mind. It reminds me of when Brett Dean wrote for Steven Osborne and me a piece for cello and piano. Because he lived in Australia, he couldn’t attend any rehearsal or the world premiere. As always, Steven and I worked on this piece diligently, doing our best to fulfill the composer’s wishes; however, when he received the world premiere recording, he claimed that he liked it a lot but that it was pretty different from what he had in mind. What am I trying to say? Don’t ever take the interpretation of the first performers seriously, as there is no guarantee they really captured what the composer had in mind. Sure, maybe Brett Dean might have corrected us when attending our rehearsals, but who knows? Perhaps he would have shut up since what we did was so convincing that he didn’t want to interfere with the outcome. The truth is in the score, and each performer’s output should be different.
What did I do differently with the Shostakovich concertos? Well, for starters, I took his metronome markings, which Rostropovich pretty much ignored, seriously. The composer writes the same tempo for each movement in the second concerto, although they are titled Largo and Allegretto. For me, that makes a lot of sense, and judging by the reviews, listeners seemed to agree with me, or at least they appreciated another view on these gorgeous pieces. The fact is that there is no one exact way how any given piece should be performed — the more variety in our interpretations, the better. Do I like the outcome? There are some things I would have liked to have played differently, but it’s okay; I feel like I got my point across.
External link: https://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA68340