Interview: NY Phil Principal Cellist Carter Brey: World-Class Musician, Late-Starter border=0 align=

Interview: NY Phil Principal Cellist Carter Brey: World-Class Musician, Late-Starter

July 26, 2021, 7:43 PM · It was raining softly last Friday in beautiful Vail, Colorado, high in the Rocky Mountains, and the evening temperature had dropped to 59 degrees. More than 1,300 dedicated audience members took their seats at the outdoor Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater - beneath the shell and out on the lawn under umbrellas.

Everyone was gathered to hear the New York Philharmonic, which has been orchestra-in-residence for eight days in late July at the Bravo! Vail Music Festival. The orchestra tuned, and out came the evening's soloist, NYP Principal Cellist Carter Brey, to perform Haydn's Cello Concerto in C major on his 1754 Guadagnini. As the crowd quieted in anticipation of the music, the sound of the nearby babbling brook emerged, as well as the sound of the soft rain.

The high altitude, high humidity, low temperature and general nature of outdoor amplification are not naturally suited to bring out the fine points of a Classical-era cello concerto - but leave it to the elite-level musicians of the New York Philharmonic, as well as the support team at Bravo! Vail, to rise to any occasion.

Brey took his seat in front of the orchestra - and behind a small microphone. He smiled as he listened to the long orchestral introduction. As he had told me the day before, of all the cello concertos in the repertoire, the popular Haydn concerto "is certainly the most fun to play. It's just so full of high spirits, and it's written with an amazingly good understanding of the strengths of the instrument. It's demanding, yes, like every concerto is, but it also has a very inviting quality."

Indeed, this affable music felt like one big smile, and Brey played it with real ease. He also used cadenzas that he'd written himself, full of double-stops, turns, trills and interesting voicing. During the melodious second movement, the dedication of this audience emerged when they actually started humming along with the music (not just one person, but many!). The musicians of the NYP were very sensitive to their colleague, opening up space for some beautiful moments of quiet and repose within the music. And the last movement bounced along joyously - and quickly! Brey received three standing ovations.

I was left thinking - this guy!

During the four days I was at the Bravo! Vail, I had watched Brey perform in three different and demanding roles: one as the featured soloist in the performance described above -- and then also as the Principal Cellist for the New York Phil and as the cellist in the New York Philharmonic String Quartet.

How does he do it all? And what is the background of such a versatile musician? It might surprise his fans to learn that he was a very late starter, from a family of non-musicians. And he didn't exactly take to practicing at first. Keep reading...

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Violin Lessons This Fall: Going back? To What?

July 24, 2021, 4:40 PM · Since March of 2020, the question has been omni-present in our collective consciousness: When can we go back to in-person? In-person lessons, in-person classes, in-person rehearsals, in-person...anything. When will this be over?

We’ve come a long way in the last year and a half. Violin teachers, students, and their families pivoted online with no notice. With collective ingenuity, community support (albeit at a distance), and sheer determination and desperation, we’ve carved out an online existence for music education. We’ve learned a lot about what works, and what doesn’t work.

The whole world is also reeling from the trauma and grief of the pandemic. We learned to see even our closest family as potentially dangerous, not to hug or get too close of them for fear of infecting them or becoming infected. We spent holidays apart and we delayed celebrations. We were separated from those we most wanted to be with out of fear of the unknown virus. One of my students recently told me that what he misses the most about in-person lessons is being able to stand next to me and be close to me.

In many industries, namely education and those deemed "essential," teachers and workers have endured verbal and emotional abuse, with frustrated customers even going so far as to state that they didn’t care if teachers died, so long as children could go back to school in-person. It’s going to take a long time for us to recover from the shocking realization that our lives and the lives of our colleagues mean so little to those we serve and work with.

Things are different this summer - we can start doing some things again. We have learned much more about COVID-19. Innovations in vaccine development and distribution have brought community spread down in many areas of the world. We have more knowledge about how to prevent transmission. The CDC has said that vaccinated people can gather, even without masks. Schools are preparing to open fully in-person this fall.

With all these developments, music teachers are faced with a number of questions, namely, "What do we do, and how do we do it?" Keep reading...

Comments (5) weekend vote: Is it okay to applaud between movements at a classical concert?

July 24, 2021, 3:25 PM · What are your thoughts on applauding between music at a classical concert? Should there be no applause between music? Or do we just need to change that rule and let people clap between movements? Or, do we need a more nuanced approach that allows the applause sometimes, but not always? Please choose the answer that most closely reflects your thoughts about the matter, and also share any ideas you have about handling the situation. Should there be announcements? Concert etiquette guidelines in program books? Something else? If you answered "sometimes," how will people know when it's okay and when it's not?

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For the Record, Op. 164: Brieuc Vourch; cellist Emmanuelle Bertrand

July 23, 2021, 12:22 PM · Welcome to "For the Record,"'s weekly roundup of new releases of recordings by violinists, violists, cellists and other classical musicians. We hope it helps you keep track of your favorite artists, as well as find some new ones to add to your listening!

Sonatas by Strauss & Franck
Brieuc Vourch, violin
Guillaume Vincent, piano

French violinist Brieuc Vourch, 25, and pianist Guillaume Vincent call their new recording of sonatas by Strauss and Franck a "radical quest for authenticity." Vourch, who has studied with both Itzhak Perlman and Boris Kuschnir, said that "Guillaume and I worked day and night on both pieces and tried to do justice to every phrase, to give it contour and depth. During this radical quest for authenticity, we went to our utmost limits and beyond to comprehend these scores as profoundly as possible, to extract the composers' substance, in order to penetrate the endless musical universe of Strauss and Franck. This is because we know that we have to make 'a strong statement' amid the ocean of legendary recordings. We believe that we have achieved this and hope our listeners can feel and hear it." BELOW: A trailer for the new album, with musical excerpts and commentary in both German and English:

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Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine