You've said that Elgar's Cello Concerto is one of your favorite pieces. What aspect of it most appeals to you?
I love this piece because it's pure emotion. It's an extremely emotionally charged concerto because Elgar wrote it at the end of the first world war. He was in his 60s at the time, and he had just come home from being hospitalized. Everything inside and outside was shattered, so to speak. The Old Europe he related to was gone. Then he decided to write a cello concerto. The theme came to him the first time he came home from the hospital. It has a huge melancholia. The whole set is very sad, and I'm a happy person so I'm exploring feelings and a life situation that aren't really mine. I find it extremely challenging, but sort of rewarding to live through the eyes of the composer. The way he writes his music you can absolutely relate to his life situation, which I think is exceptional.
You talked about 'living through the eyes of the composer.' Is that something you typically try to do when approaching a piece of music?
I try to approach it like that. I try to read the biography, I try to see what else is going on at the same time. A composer—or any human being—is never just living on his own. A composer is living with what's happening around him. I always find that fascinating. However, you can't just analyze a piece through biographical material. It's a starting point, but it will not give you the answers. Most of the answers are in the score. My analysis is in the beginning and then I try to transform all that information I gather into something that will speak purely emotional. In a way it's a journey I make with each piece.
How do you travel with an instrument like that?
I have to buy an extra ticket so it sits beside me. People have offered me two meals because I have two seats. I think one meal on the airplane is already too much. And the cello doesn't complain, so it's a good traveling companion.
You're also working with the outreach program Atlanta Music Project while you're in town.
That's right. I'll be listening to some of the young cellists, but then I'm also just going to do a small general lecture, about my cello, about travel, about what I do as a soloist. Usually when I do outreach, I just have to do a little bit of talking at the beginning, and then during the Q&A the kids take over completely. It's so fun for me to see what they are interested in. I hope from these sessions I can give them a glimpse of what my life is like, the nice parts and the not-so-glamorous parts like being on the road all the time.
You keep a YouTube video blog and you're very involved in social media. That seems a little unusual for a classical musician.
I think the whole direction that performance is taking: people want to have a look behind the scenes. Every DVD has a 'making of' nowadays. I feel there's a big longing to look behind the scenes. Everyone feels that classical music is something that appeals mostly to older people. I feel that with my YouTube clips I can approach a slightly younger crowd. And to tell you the truth, it's also just a lot of fun. I spend a lot of time traveling and working, so to do something like these little video clips is a creative escape for me. I'm enjoying the process of doing it but I think it also makes sense for the audience as well.
Johannes Moser plays Elgar’s Cello Concerto in his debut performance with the ASO this weekend. Performances will be on Thursday, February 16, at 8 p.m., Friday, February 17, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, February 19, at 3 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets visit the ASO.
yeah, because Grant Park is miles away and isn't a park
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