|An impressive performer both on and off the stage.|
German cellist Jan Vogler takes center stage at Dvořák’s Prague on Monday night, playing Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor Op. 129 with the Prague Philharmonia. This will be his first appearance with the orchestra and British conductor Benjamin Wallfisch.
Vogler, 47, is a formidable talent. He started playing at the age of 6 and won the principal cello position with the Staatskapelle Dresden at the age of 20, becoming the youngest concertmaster in the orchestra’s history. He left that position in 1997 to embark on a solo career, and has developed a remarkable repertoire that ranges from early music (Bach, Mozart) through the Romantics (Beethoven, Brahms, Dvořák) to the 20th century (Shostakovich, Piazzolla). His 2009 recording Experience: Live from New York even includes a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun.”
Offstage, Vogler has been no less impressive, taking classical music into new venues and communities and founding the Moritzburg Festival, a chamber music festival in Saxony that celebrated its 19th outing in August. Earlier this month, in recognition of his work as an ambassador of classical music, Vogler received the Erich Kästner Award from the Dresden Press Club, which honors individuals who have made “an outstanding contribution to further the ideals of tolerance, humanity and international understanding.”
Vogler talked about the award, his other activities and his upcoming Prague concert in a recent e-mail conversation.
Has the Moritzburg Festival developed the way you hoped it would?
In the beginning, it was just an opportunity to meet, discuss music and spend time with fantastic colleagues and great works of chamber music. Now it’s both a workshop for the artists and a festival for our wonderful audiences from around the world. And more and more, I see that the beautiful natural setting of Moritzburg plays an important role. It creates a special concentration during the work and gives a magical setting for our concerts.
You joined an elite group as this year’s recipient of the Erich Kästner Award. What are your feelings about winning the award?
It gives me a feeling of support and trust. I feel very honored, and I feel a responsibility to work further on creating music that brings people together. I am very fortunate to have an audience that stimulates me to work very hard on the cello, but also to get involved in the musical life of Germany, and give my energy to help create enthusiasm for classical music.
You performed at one of the most significant civic events in Germany in recent years, the reopening of the Dresden Frauenkirche in 2005.
I will never forget this concert: Onstage with the New York Philharmonic and Lorin Maazel in the Frauenkirche, and feeling the historic dimension of this event. It was a true reconciliation between all the parties of the Second World War. There was an atmosphere in the air that gave me assurance that music can indeed reach very far into society, and can even heal the wounds of war.
Where is home for you now, Dresden or New York?
Both! The combination is ideal for me. Dresden is a symbol of the tradition of music in Germany, and inspires me in a calm, steady way. New York connects me with the world, and helps me to see the bigger picture of my profession and the world in general.
Was it your proposal, or a request from Dvořák’s Prague, to play the Schumann concerto?
It was the choice of the festival, but it is especially nice to play the Schumann in Prague. It has a special place in my heart, and a great variety of emotions has kept me working on it for the past 25 years.
How do you approach the Schumann piece – what qualities do you try to bring out in the music?
It has wonderful lyrical passages, but also heroic and suddenly very intimate ones. It is a challenge for every cellist and musician to combine the distinct style of Schumann’s music with a grand scale of color and expression.
Any special feelings about performing at the Rudolfinum?
There is a certain energy that lives in the traditional temples of classical music in Central Europe. The Rudolfinum is one of these places that inspire the artist to give his very best.
Next month you will be going to Cleveland to play Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, not with the Cleveland Orchestra, but with CityMusic Cleveland, a program that sponsors free concerts in inner-city neighborhoods. Why did you accept that invitation?
I like the mission of the orchestra, to play for a variety of audiences and bring music to different neighborhoods in Cleveland. It brings me back to the roots of why I wanted to play the cello in the first place – to show the beauty of music to many different people in the world.
For more on Jan Vogler: http://www.janvogler.com/en/home.html
For a look at the Moritzburg Festival: http://www.moritzburgfestival.de/english/