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Backstage Pass interview with Julian Schwarz, Cellist

You made your orchestral debut at the age of 11 with the Seattle Symphony and your father, Gerard Schwarz, conducting. He is also conducting your performance with the QSO. How often do you have the opportunity to perform together?

I am very lucky to have the chance to perform with my father frequently. I jump at any chance to perform with him! So far we have performed eight different concertos together (two were world premieres) and this is our first Elgar. We have made two recordings as well-- one for Naxos and the other for public television in the US. This season we will perform seven more times together, including my first Don Quixote of Strauss.

Do you feel more at ease performing under your father’s direction compared to another conductor?

This has evolved over the past few years. At first I was more nervous to play with him than any other conductor. He is very demanding and I felt much pressure to play to his standards. Now I am much more at ease playing with him than any other conductor. As I play with more and more different styles of conducting, I have grown to appreciate what I used to take for granted-- his innate chamber music and listening qualities from the podium. He is so natural and instinctive, I can mould phrases in the moment without any fear of losing my colleagues in the orchestra. It is a true gift to work with him.

What is your favourite part of Elgar’s Cello Concerto?

My favourite part of the Elgar Concerto is the long, introspective coda to the last movement. For me it is a mournful statement that references the recitative quality that pervades the whole concerto. It both brings back the great slow movement theme, and then finally the opening of the first movement to close the piece. It leaves me with the sense of having come full circle.

What type of cello do you play?

I play an English cello made in 1790 by Benjamin Banks. It is a beautiful instrument of a dark cherry varnish, made in Salisbury. The bow I play is of the French maker Marcel Lapierre made in the 1970s.

Why did you initially choose to play the cello rather than another instrument?

I started on the piano to establish a basis of harmony and counterpoint. Then I wanted to learn the double bass. Knowing the physical and musical limitations of the bass, my parents urged me to consider the cello. Though I always thought I would eventually switch, I am very grateful to have been nudged in that direction!

Will you and your father have time for a holiday while you are in Australia?

Unfortunately not. This is my first time in Australia and nothing would make me happier than to see the great beauty of the country. I will be coming to Australia from Mexico where I am playing the Dvorak Concerto. After Australia I must get back to New York City to prepare for a performance of the Haydn C Major Concerto in Toledo, OH.