Hi Amy. Thanks so much for taking time to chat to us ahead of your concert at St Michael’s Church, Michaelchurch Escley on March 11th 2023. Firstly can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a cellist and live in Brussels with my partner who is Dutch and also a cellist. We have 2 daughters and enjoy walking in the mountains. I am mainly active as a chamber musician, but I also play as a soloist and with all the Belgian orchestras as guest principle cellist which I enjoy.
My mum lives in Craswall and although I didn’t grow up there, my family and I absolutely love and feel attached to the special area of the Black Mountains.
We’re so excited that you’ve agreed to perform another concert for us, and of course, recently agreed to become a patron of Concerts for Craswall. What drew you to chamber music in the first place and the cello in particular?
For me, the joy of being a musician apart from the luxury of spending my time with incredible music, is the opportunities to meet and communicate with other people. Chamber music is like a conversation between friends. I love the fact that in chamber music, we need to learn how to listen to each other, to support our colleagues in a musical phrase, and at other times to let our voices be heard and to be listened to and supported. Chamber music is a lesson in life! I always think that the world would be a better place if politicians and leaders grew up playing chamber music….
As far as the cello is concerned, I don’t remember exactly…. I grew up in a musical family and my brother played the violin, viola and double bass, so perhaps the cello was the only option. I must say that for me the cello is the instrument closest to the human voice and I have always loved listening to singers in all the different genres. So although I am not a singer, the cello is my way of singing and helps me on my journey to finding my own voice.
Who or what would you say has been the biggest influence on you as a musician/cellist?
As a cellist, I would have to say Jaqueline du Pré and Steven Isserlis. They are incredibly different cellists and musicians but both hugely influential for me. I never met Du Pré but I was obsessed with her recordings as a student. Isserlis has always been a huge inspiration for me since I studied with him at the International Musicians Seminar in Prussia Cove, and he remains a mentor to me to this day.
As a musician, it is very difficult to choose one because there are so many, and there continue to be so many. My father is a conductor and as a child I adored the operas that he was conducting and I think that this has definitely been a huge influence on me. But there are all the amazing singers who I have listened to like Dietrich Fischer Dieskau, Anne Sofie von Otter, Ella Fitzgerald, Jessye Norman….to name a few. I am also hugely influenced by the musicians with whom I play today; one in particular is the pianist Alasdair Beatson.
You are the founder of the International Chamber Music Festival, Festival Resonances. Tell us a little about it and what led you to establish it in the first instance.
Festival Resonances takes place each year in a beautiful region in the south of Belgium. I invite around 20 musicians from around the world to come and live in a chateau for a week where we rehearse. At the weekend we give around 8 concerts in the barn next door. It is a wonderful moment in the year where you can hear a group of top international soloists or chamber musicians in a very intimate and rural setting. Musicians love it because it is a chance to get away from the busy life of fast travel in and out of hotels and concert halls, and the audience love the intimacy of the venue and the chance to meet the musicians in the tent outside where everyone mingles together..
If you could take just one piece of music with you to a desert island, what would you take and why?
It is impossible to choose only one!!! But ok…. Mmmmm….. Beethoven’s String Quartet Opus 132 because of the depths of humanity Beethoven seems to reach in this music.
Some quick-fire questions:
- Tea or coffee? COFFEE
- Beer or wine? WINE
- Sweet or savoury? SWEET
- Big night out or quiet night in? QUIET NIGHT IN
- Book or eBook? BOOK
- Giving presents or receiving presents? BOTH! But giving is especially nice.
- If you could travel back in time, what period would you go to? I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE MET BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN, SO 1850.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I am really looking forward to coming to play in Michaelchurch Escley and especially to bringing my colleague to Herefordshire for the first time. Although Antigoni and I were both studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London at the same time, it was only many years later in Brussels that we actually met each other. We recognised each other in the street and within 10 minutes had found the connection with the Royal Academy 20 years before!