Worst concert experience? ‘Puberty. Until then everything seemed natural’

Musicians playing the West Cork Chamber Music festival on a few of their favourite things

Heading to Bantry for the West Cork Chamber Music Festival: Cédric Pescia,  Fiona Kelly, Nurit Stark, David Faber and Dudok Quartet, and Nathalia Milstein

Heading to Bantry for the West Cork Chamber Music Festival: Cédric Pescia, Fiona Kelly, Nurit Stark, David Faber and Dudok Quartet, and Nathalia Milstein

 

 

Nathalia Milstein
Nathalia Milstein

Nathalia Milstein, French pianist

Why the piano?
My father is pianist. My mother is a violist. So I was surrounded by music. I don’t really remember choosing the instrument. But I was really attracted to it and when I could reach the keyboard I used to play on it. When I was four my father decided it was time for lessons. 

Did you ever consider a non-musical career?
No. It was clear I wanted to become a musician. 

The best piano you’ve ever played?
The piano I practised on since I was four. My grandfather had this little Steinway, from 1936 I think, which was brought to Russia by the Russian army after the second World War. It went to my grandfather’s house in Moscow. When my parents moved to France in the 1990s they took it with them. It hasn’t been restored. But there’s something very special about the sound.

The best piano you’ve ever heard?
When I listen to a piano I don’t hear the sound of the instrument but the sound of the pianist. I have great memories of a recital in the Verbier festival by Grigory Sokolov, a Chopin concerto played by Elisabeth Leonskaja.  

Your best experience on the concert stage?
It was really great to play in Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York, which was part of my prize from the Dublin International Piano Competition. 

Worst experience?
Once, in Italy, my concert had to be given a day early. It was in a very small village and only six people turned up for a 300-seat hall. That’s much more stressful than playing for a thousand people. You feel really alone.

Musical blind spot?
The kind of music that surrounds us in supermarkets. 

What are you most looking forward to in Bantry?
The opportunity to play with other musicians. Pianists are used to being alone. It’s always great to share a stage with other people.

 

Fiona Kelly
Fiona Kelly

Fiona Kelly, Irish flautist

Why the flute?
Because I was a failure at the violin. My mother is a flute player and she decided to see what I was like at the flute, and the sound came really easily to me. 

Non-musical career?
Not seriously. As a teenager I thought I would be the clever one in the family and be a lawyer. But I was never really passionate about anything other than music. 

The best flute?
The one I own right now. It’s a Brannen, an American instrument. My teacher found it second-hand. They only make them to order. It’s one of a kind. I’m very lucky in that it just suited me, it just fits together with me very well. Together we make a very special sound. You could give it to someone else and it wouldn’t be the same.

Best flute you’ve ever heard?
I never think it’s about the instrument. It’s definitely who is playing it. Mathieu Dufour, the principal flute from the Berlin Philharmonic, who I heard at Bantry for the first time, and did a master class with at Juilliard as well. He’s someone at the moment that I’m listening to. 

Best concert experience?
I did a tour of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 and a new piece based on that instrumentation with Uri Caine, a jazz piano player, and Antje Weithaas playing violin. He’s a total hero of mine, and she is amazingly inspiring to play with. 

Worst concert experience?
Playing Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune for the first time in an orchestra and it was live on the radio. Definitely terrifying.

Musical blind spot?
I’m actually into almost everything. I’m very open. 

Looking forward to in Bantry?
The whole package. Where the festival takes place, all the people that are going to be there. Listening to performances in this amazing environment.

Nurit Stark
Nurit Stark

Nurit Stark, Israeli violinist

Why the violin?
The violin allows me to be in a place which is not too concrete. I have room to play around with. I’m very near to being a voice, and I’m also very near to the gut. The strings were all originally made from gut. What else can I say? 

Non-musical career? 
No. Not even for a moment. 

The best violin?
My own violin. It definitely has the biggest soul I ever experienced with any violin. It’s like not an instrument you play on, but one which kind of plays on you. 

The best violin you’ve ever heard?
There is a band called Taraf de Haïdouks. They are Romanian and they have a violinist who is not playing violin, but is really speaking through the instrument. 

Best concert experience?
Playing Messiaen, the Quartet for the End of Time. It’s a mystical piece and therefore seven is the complete number and number eight is for eternity. The eighth and last movement is played by violin and piano. Before my first performance of the piece I didn’t believe that I could take off in the music. When I started to play I was fighting for my life. After a minute or two, from the very, very silent audience, I heard somebody crying. This allowed me to forget any kind of boundaries or limits. Definitely the strongest experience I ever had.

Worst concert experience?
Puberty. Up until then everything seemed natural. When I hit puberty I was so suddenly aware and so unconfident about so many things. Fear took over. 

Musical blind spots?
Wow. There is a lot. I’m totally allergic to musicals, for example.

Loking forward to in Bantry?
The work. The rehearsals and the outcome is what I’m most looking forward to.

Cédric Pescia
Cédric Pescia

Cédric Pescia, Franco-Swiss pianis

Why the piano?
It was the sound I was attracted to as a child. 

Non-musical career?
No. Not even for one second since I was seven years old. 

The best piano?
My piano. I’m very lucky. For the last five years I’ve had a wonderful New York Steinway from 1901, which really has everything I expect from a piano – depth, singing tone in the middle register, great bass, the feeling that you can go to the biggest fortissimo and it remains generous and big. I’m really lucky. 

Best piano you’ve ever heard?
It’s completely linked to the person playing it. As a child I heard Claudio Arrau when he was very, very old, probably one of the last recitals he gave. I’ll never ever forget it. Marvellous sound. A real inspiration. And I was only 12 years old.

Best concert experience?
Probably playing Bach’s Art of Fugue in Colombia, four or five years ago. The way of listening, the concentration of the audience was most amazing, with moments of extremely intensive silence. Unforgettable.

Worst concert experience?
In China. Just the opposite. A very undisciplined, unconcentrating audience, where I felt I had to find tricks to interest them.

Musical blind spot?
My interest goes from the earliest music to the latest compositions. 

Looking forward to in Bantry?
To listen to concerts by friends. 

David Faber Dudok QuartetPhoto: Marco Borggreve
David Faber Dudok Quartet. Photograph: Marco Borggreve

David Faber, cellist of the Dudok Quartet

Why the cello?
I don’t remember it being a conscious choice. My older brother already played the violin. I guess I didn’t want to be the same as him. So I took the cello.

Non-musical career?
I studied law for two years. But I could be found at places making music more than I could be found in school studying law. I was a bit older than most when I started at the conservatory. It was a disadvantage, in that the younger you are the easier it is. But it was an advantage in that I made a more conscious choice to become a musician. 

The best cello?
It’s the one I’m playing now. I have it since October last year. It’s French, mid-19th century, and it fits me really well. The sound is really big. But it’s like a chameleon. It can really quickly grab a butterfly from the air. But it can also blend and support the other three in the quartet. The maker is Bernardel.

The best cello you’ve ever heard?
It’s also the person, not only the instrument. The cello of the cellist in the Quatuor Danel, who are also coming to West Cork, is one of the nicest cellos I’ve ever heard. It seems quite small, but then you are extra surprised by the kind of sound that comes out. It’s really, really rich. 

Best concert experience?
When we are together as a quartet on the stage and we forget it’s a concert. When it’s as if there is no clear border between the people onstage and the people in the audience. That’s what I cherish most.

Worst concert experience?
A string breaking. My A string breaks once a year onstage, and only onstage! Or forgetting the sheet music. 

Musical blind spot?
In the quartet we have emotional people and more rational people. My blind spot would be sometimes not letting things just happen. I want to! But sometimes I’m too much in control.

Looking forward to most in Bantry?
A string quintet by Taneyev which we’re playing with a German violist, Nils Mönkemeyer. This piece is almost never performed. I’ve never seen it programmed anywhere. It’s really, really beautiful. Like the best of Brahms and Tchaikovsky combined. 

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