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Hairy Matters—Classical Performance, Criticism and Coiffure: 
The Daniel Müller-Schott Interview 
(Supplementary Post)

The issue of performer-and-hair has recently come up on an instagram conversation thread of the always interesting fellow writer, obsessed listener, and musical explorer "foreignwords" (he also runs the podcast & website Fugue for Thought), where cellist Carmine Miranda, having just joined the social media world, found a mention of himself regarding his recording of the Dvořák and Schumann cello concertos which he took exception to. I had made the comment and was briefly the subject of his vented ire. (We've since made up.) More on this in a separate (and perhaps future) posts here on ionarts and on But to open this series of tangentially hair-related classical music posts first this interview with Daniel Müller-Schott conducted a few years ago for WETA.

Resurrected WETA Post: A Brief Conversation with Daniel Müller-Schott, originally posted on Monday, 3.14.2011

Daniel Müller-Schott is the kind of musician I have always expected very little of, and in doing so always ended up positively surprised. Something that without fail would repeat at the next concert or recital or recording, which I will again have approached with limitless lack of enthusiasm, only to be pleasantly touched once more.  It’s hard to figure out quite why that is. Perhaps the reason is as shallow and silly as my intense dislike of that hideous pony tail he sported in his earlier days. Well, that pony tail is long gone and I operate on the firm presumption and hope that his concert at Strathmore this Wednesday with the NHK Symphony Orchestra of Japan and his buddy André Previn will be full of pleasant surprises. I’ve talked to him earlier this month, starting with the concerto-rarities by Robert Volkmann and Joseph Joachim Raff which are part of his extensive discography:

available at Amazon
R.Volkmann & R.Schumann, Cello Concertos
Daniel Müller-Schott / C.Eschenbach / NDRSO

available at Amazon
J.J.Raff, Cello Concertos
Daniel Müller-Schott / H.Stadlmair / Bamberg SO

available at Amazon
J.J.Raff, Cello Concertos
Daniel Müller-Schott / H.Stadlmair / Bamberg SO

Hmm, yes, those are of course little jewels in the repertoire that are, unfortunately, very unknown. For me it was fascinating to search for composers that have almost been forgotten in our time but who were very popular at the time of the romantic era where the audiences enjoyed them tremendously. I found Robert Volkmann’s name when I was looking through the archives researching Robert Schumann. They knew and liked each other and they had exchanged letters and this is how I stumbled on the Volkmann concerto. And when I studied the piece and looked for extant recordings, I found out that my cello had already recorded it at the beginning of the last century. So this is the second recording on my “Ex-Földesy” Goffriller cello which was another nice inspiration for me. That cellist was Arnold Földesy, solo cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic before becoming soloist, and one of his first recordings—at a time when the recording industry was only just getting under way—was the Volkmann concerto.

The Raff recording—with Hans Stadlmair and the Bamberg Orchestra—came about when I was traveling in Switzerland where I happened across the name of Joachim Raff on one of the programs. And then I got into a conversation with a person from the Raff Society and found out that the amount of works that Raff has written in his life is just humungous and that’s what kept me interest to look for the cello repertoire and so I found the two cello concertos. And I think that the second one had never been recorded before. I’m always glad to look into repertoire that is less well known… because otherwise it’s always the same big concertos—the Dvořák, the Schumann, Elgar, maybe Shostakovich, Haydn…  And there’s much more than that, of course.  Of course in our time Mstislav Rostropovich has inspired so many composers… I think the works for cello and orchestra alone that are dedicated to him number more than 70. There’s a lot to study, still.

Are there any other concertos that you are looking at to add to your repertoire or have already added and would like to record?

Yes… Myaskovsky is something that I studied and would love to play. And there are several pieces by American composers I’d like to study: The Barber concerto, Viktor Herbert’s who inspired Dvořák to write his. Then I love Britten’s Cello Symphony which I am also going to record this year, so yes, there’s a lot to explore in the future. And of course I always enjoy premiering pieces. Actually, André Previn has just written a cello concerto for me which is going to be premiered in Leipzig with the Gewandhaus Orchestra later this year.

You record CDs… do you actually listen to them?

Once I’ve actually completed the work and listened to the final edits I very rarely listen to my own recordings. It’s a very intense process: studying the work, recording it, and editing it—to find the right takes… and after I’m finished, I’m pretty much done with it. Sometimes I’m surprised when I’m in the car and I listen to the radio and I hear a cellist and when it’s me I sometimes don’t even notice. And then I am happy to hear that it was one of my recordings.

Hopefully happy to hear… “Yes,” he chuckles, “yeah… hmmm. Most of the time.”

Is being a cellist a handicap when listening to other cellists, perhaps because you might constantly think: ‘Why, I would do this or that differently…’?

Yes, there is of course a tendency when you listen to other cellists that you always have a certain idea in your head about some interpretations. But then you also have to be able to step aside from your own view of the music and be very open to other ideas and to respect what the other cellists do. Because everyone tries—they all try—we all try our best and we want to get best results for the music and to support the composer and get out what he presumably had in his mind. So I think it’s very important to basically worship what other cellists do and to learn from that.

Is that easier when the cellist in question is dead?

Maybe. Maybe. I suppose it’s easier to think about the legacy of a cellist—like Feuermann or Casals or Rostropovich—if he has passed away… which makes it even more attractive in a way. But since music is always living in the moment you also have go to concerts which represents so more of the whole creative process which is why it’s such an important experience. I try to actually learn from both, old recordings and from going to concerts and listen to my colleagues, which is something I enjoy. And among the dead ones I like Pierre Fournier a lot. I think he was one of the most elegant and complete masters of his instrument and he always played it in a wonderful style. And I also really like Emmanuel Feuermann who is a great virtuoso on the instrument and who has also the lightest touch to the instrument. That’s something that has always influenced me. And of course I love the old Bach recordings by Casals. I think these recordings will always remain one of the greatest achievements.

One of your very first recordings were the Bach Suites. Was that a little gutsy, in retrospect, doing it quite that early?

Yes, well… it was probably good to do it that early because I didn’t at all think about it. At that time—it was the year 2000, the 250th Bach anniversary year—I just had, in my youthful naïveté I just had the idea of doing the Bach cycle. I wanted to play all the six Suites and really try to master them. When I started playing the cello, I started with the First Suites after only a year of lessons, so I felt that the Bach Suites really was the music I had spent the most time with. I didn’t really think about a recording, it just happened that when I programmed the recital—I played it throughout the year 2000—someone heard me in a concert with the cycle and offered me the recording and then I just said ‘OK, why not’.

A few words about the opening of the Elgar concerto:

The opening of the Elgar Concerto is something so monumental in a way… and also tragic. You try to really bring out those chords as passionately as possible, of course. Of course this concerto very autumnal and melancholic, but it also has great moments of virtuosity and joy. It’s really the complexity of it that makes it challenging. I don’t think of other interpretations when I play this piece, which is really one of the last great romantic statements. I always try to go back to the score and re-study it. And when you play this piece with different musicians—now with André I have recorded this concerto in Oslo and we really worked really hard on it—you always also take on the influence of the person you work with.  And now I am really looking forward to playing it at Strathmore Hall—a fantastic hall where until now I’ve only been a listener, never a performer

[The—truly superb—Volkmann Concerto is included on a disc on ORFEO that also features the Schumann concerto, Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, and Richard Strauss’ Romance in F for Cello and Orchestra. The NDR Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Christoph Eschenbach. Listen to a brief excerpt from the concerto's opening above.]

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