Renowned cellist Amit Peled spoke with the International Music Foundation on April 25, 2015
He shared some wonderful stories about his experience with the Hess series and the thrill of playing Pablo Casals’ Gofriller cello.
What is so beautiful about my experience with the Hess series is that through the series I grew up both as a cellist and as a human being. For quite a while, once a year, I had this legendary experience. I was very young and inexperienced when I began, and the pieces that I played became bigger, harder and more ambitious. I also began to attract a regular crowd–that was really amazing.
Now, as a teacher I’ve already had two students who have also had this experience. That’s an amazing feeling, to start another journey for these young people.
What’s noteworthy about performing at the Hess? First of all the acoustics! You really rise to the occasion. And to have the opportunity to have your performance recorded for the radio, and some years, on the TV.
And, professionally, my appearances at the Hess have been very important to my career. One occasion, the violist from the Vermeer Quartet called Ann on her cell phone after one of my performances and asked to congratulate the cellist. I’m now very close to Ashkenazi (who was the violinist with the Vermeer), and that phone call was my foot in the door. Totally unexpected! And my first Youtube video was a performance from the Hess series. It’s had more than 100,000 views!
Also, what the Hess is doing in sending an important message—that classical music should be free to people.
But my best story about Hess is something I tell my students all the time to teach this lesson: wherever you play, you have to do your best because you never know what will happen. Part of the Hess experience was staying at the Union League Club and enjoying their amazing breakfast. I remember that on this occasion I had flown in from Berlin the night before the performance, and woke up jet-lagged at 5 am. After that breakfast, I began to play one hour of scales (which I always do every morning). I put the TV on full volume to cover up my playing. After about a half hour of practicing, I heard a knock on the door and I immediately called out “Sorry I’m going to stop,” when a very heavy German accent replied, “Don’t stop, please open the door!” An elderly man stood there and went on to say “It’s very interesting how you play scales. Could you share with me your system? I used to play cello and I’ve never heard scales played like this.”
This man [Dieter Kober] turned out to be the conductor of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, who came to my performance at the Hess that day. He then invited me to play with the Orchestra and this connection became very important to my career also.
Another lesson I share with my students is that the bread and butter of what musicians do is to sit on stage and play for people—not to perform in big mega halls. When I was much younger, and I was chosen to play for the Hess—and for them to choose me was such an honor—I never even thought about how much money I would make. What I’m a little bit upset about these days is that I hear young musicians in these days of competition sometimes turn down opportunities that don’t pay so well. I used to fly in from Europe for the Hess!
I tell my students: “If you play well and make music, good things will happen to you. These performances are a laboratory or cooking pot where you can mix and check everything you can in order to see if you are an artist.”
Finally, for me as a cellist it’s a dream come true to receive and then play on Casals cello. The legacy of Casals is so unique and has influenced so many people in so many ways. Now, by playing the cello in truly every corner of the world I am sharing who Casals was, what music meant to him and what peace meant to him.
In November I look forward to performing at the Hess on this instrument, especially knowing that Myra Hess played with Casals, and that I will be returning to the hall where truly I began my career.