Pablo Ferrandez: A Golden Age for Cello

July 6, 2017, 3:59 AM · The first time I heard of Pablo Ferrandez was few weeks ago in a Facebook post by Anne-Sophie Mutter. It immediately caught my attention. If the legendary Mutter – with whom he played the Brahms Double Concerto – advertised him as being “truly special” and “a true musician”, then Pablo Ferrandez must be really something. And he was.

He quickly became one of my favourite cellists. I love the natural way he plays and his direct musicality, his genuine expression, warm sound and passion. I love the space and dimension he gives his music, its story-telling side, its speed. It is always moving, alive, exciting, and free. It never stops.

Pablo Ferrandez
Pablo Fernandez.

While interviewing him, I found the 26 years old cellist disarmingly natural. Generous and sincere, he has a great thirst for knowledge and an infinite love for music and people.

Pablo studied with Natalia Shakhovskaya – a student of Rostropovitch – for seven years at the Reina Sofia Music School in Madrid, his hometown. “She was the most influential woman in my life, besides my mom of course. Her way of feeling and explaining music was incredible. She made me love it completely.”

Beside his dear teacher, Pablo is also a great admirer of Martha Argerich. “She is my god. I love her so much it scares me. I would do anything to play with her. Her music is so raw, so natural, and so true. I met her a few times; I even had dinner with her once. She is my ideal. My goal is to be someone like her.”

Most recently Pablo is known to have won fourth prize at the 2015 Tchaikovsky Competition. He is also the protégé of numerous well-respected musicians such as Anne-Sophie Mutter and Gidon Kremer.

Pablo has the chance to play one of the rare Stradivarius cellos. “It is a very special cello. It is a difficult instrument to play, it took me a while to get around but now I think it likes me. Nearly every piece that I played with other cellos, I had to relearn almost completely because the instrument was fighting me back all the time, I had to learn its ways.”

“I adore this cello, I wish I could play it forever. It is on loan to me with no time limit but I don’t think I can play it until I die. That would be unfair for other cellists.”

Pablo believes that we are presently living in the golden age of cello. “I think now is the moment for cello. There are so many great young cellists. The cello level has never been this high. It has reached the level of violin and piano, which is great for the music. Today people have a lot of choice regarding whom they want to listen to and that is fantastic.”

To very young cellists who ask him for advice, Pablo says - practice a lot. Of course it is very boring, but it is the only way. “I don’t like to practice,” he admits, “but I know I have to. Once I start practicing I find things that are appealing to me, I find ways to keep going. I don’t like the fact that I have to practice: I know what I want but I hate that I have to practice over and over to get what I want. At the same time if I don’t practice everyday I feel dirty. When I practice well it is like a good shower. “

Pablo tells older cellists to dare make the music theirs and not play like everyone else. “Unfortunately, I see a lot of people who want to play clean and correct. To have as a goal to play correct makes no sense to me.”

Pablo says he never had problems with finding his personality because his teachers never forced him into a one-way ‘correct’ direction. “I always played how I felt like. No matter if it is different from what others do or not to the unanimous taste, if your interpretation makes sense you are on the right path.”

“I have the feeling that when you don’t understand something it is because it is not well explained or played. If the music is good and the performance is good it should be understandable, even for very complex works, even if you are hearing the music for the first time.”

To cellists who want to be performance artists, Pablo’s advice is to work on their stage mindset. They should think about how they present themselves on stage, how they communicate what they have to say with the audience.

You have to practice as if you were on stage. You must be focused as if you were playing a concert. “It is not easy to go on stage,” he reminds us. “On stage you are exceptionally focused, you are aware of everything. If you are not used to it, it can be terribly distracting. The more similar your practice is to a performance, the more confortable you will be on stage.”

“Also, before going on stage, I try to remind myself that I am playing for friends, that I love everyone there. If I keep in mind that I really want to play for these people, I am not so afraid of them.

In order to reduce the distance between him and his audience and to overcome his fears, Pablo likes to look at everyone as soon as he enters the hall. “For me it is like welcoming them, like we have been introduced, some connections have been made. I need that to feel well when I play.”

Finally, a few years ago, the advice Pablo would have given himself is to be more positive. “When I was studying I was always beating myself. It is very good to beat yourself but only to a certain point because you play better when you are at peace with yourself and what you do.”

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