Cellist Sol Gabetta has been given the prestigious job of opening this year’s Proms season at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
The 35-year-old Argentine will be performing Elgar’s Concerto in E minor on 15 Jul, in her Proms debut.
Gabetta, who started learning the cello aged four, is already an internationally renowned cellist and has performed around the world.
She has collaborated with lauded conductors and won many high-profile awards, including a Gramophone Award and the Echo Klassik Preis – a German music prize – as well as having earned a Grammy nomination.
To mark her Proms concert, a short film has been made called Cello, which shows her playing the opening to the Elgar concerto while a digital light display flickers across the surface of her 300-year-old cello.
Here she tells the film’s producer, Richard Slaney of 59 Productions, about her excitement ahead of the show and why the cello is a great instrument.
Are you looking forward to playing at the Proms this year?
This is my first time playing at the Proms, so to be making my debut at the first night is quite a big thing for me. I’ll be performing Elgar’s Cello Concerto, which is a very important concerto for all cellists – but to play it in London, in front of an English audience, is very special.
You can imagine how big this feels in my head, knowing that I’m in front of a public that probably knows the piece even better than I do! Many in the audience will have listened to this piece maybe 100 times.
How was the experience of making the film for the Proms?
I’m very familiar with the Elgar concerto. The first time I recorded it, I performed it about 60 times in one year. But making this film was different – it was definitely my first time playing it like this.
As children, we learn how to perform. We learn how to prepare, psychologically and physically, to play for two hours without losing energy, but sometimes it’s more difficult playing in front of cameras than it is to be on stage. And it was so strange to see the Proms printed on my cello like a photo!
Why should people love the cello?
It’s very simple. The cello is the only instrument that has four voices like the ones you’d hear singing in a choir, or in a chord played on the piano. There are so many possibilities.
Many people talk about the cello having a human voice. But it can also be a very angry instrument, especially if you’re playing the darkest, lowest strings. At the same time, it can also be extremely delicate – but never ‘crying’, like you sometimes hear with a violin.
Then there’s the extreme projection – not only strong, but intense, with so many colours. There just aren’t any other instruments in existence that have this kind of power. Of course you have the piano, but that’s a completely different technique: more mechanical, and there’s nothing mechanical about the cello.
It’s a very natural element to work with, and it’s sensitive too. If the weather is cold, your cello gets cold, and if it’s too hot – well, he doesn’t sweat, but you can feel that the projection of the sound is not as clear and as fast as it should be. I respect the instrument a lot. When he’s not feeling well, I try to change the room or the factors that are making him unhappy.
Hang on – your cello is a he?
Yes, of course!
Sol Gabetta was talking to Richard Slaney of 59 Productions. The opening night Prom concert is at 1900 BST on 15 July at the Royal Albert Hall, London.
Read more: www.bbc.co.uk