"Words are silent, but sound and thought are one!"
Many soloists of the Music House became laureates at the recent International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2015. One of them is cellist Alexander Ramm, who won the II Prize.
Aleksander Ramm, 29 years old, was born in Vladivostok. He started music studies in Kaliningrad, at the Glier Music School. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory (class of Professor Natalia Shakhovskaya) and the Berlin Eisler Higher School of Music (class of Frans Helmerson).
St. Petersburg Music House (SPMH): The Spanish cellist Pablo Casals, when someone asked him how he achieved perfection, he replied that he was so less gifted than others so he had to work much more - twelve to fourteen hours a day. How much time do you devote to studying?
Aleksander Ramm: I think that the great maestro made a joke about the hours, since such intensive classes may put your hands at risk. The hands are our working tool and they should be protected as the singers take care of their own vocal cords. And that's why I like the Giordano Bruno’s saying. "It's not intellectual advantages that made a person master over all living things, but that we alone own our hands as the organ of all organs"
I am happy to work five or six hours. But every day I have for two or three hours compulsory classes. The main work goes in my head without any instrument.
SPMH: How did you deal with the stage fear and what recommendations can you give to novice soloists?
Aleksander Ramm: I did not have any fear in my childhood, and I rather felt a thrill and uplift from the thought that I would come to the stage and play, share emotions and receive tenfold feeback from the audience. I remember how my mother was concerned during my first performance in the Conservatory Great Hall. It was an afternoon "parent" concert, my mother even did not enter the hall and remained to worry in the hallway. When she asked me what I felt, I answered: "Mom, I was sitting on the stage in the chair wherein Rostropovich was playing!". Today I'm not sure whether was exactly that chair, but then I was inspired by the thought that I was there, where my idol repeatedly performed. I am happy today having emotional feedbacks.
But I can not recommend anything to beginners, since everything is so personal. For example, I do light physical exercises, such as several jumps, to disperse the blood and cheer up. And, of course, before the concert it is not necessary to eat a lot.
SPMH: Would you like to become a teacher in the future?
Aleksander Ramm: I think sometimes about it, but for the time being it is still too early for me to translate my thoughts into practice, although I have already made the necessary "accumulations". I was very lucky with all my teachers since each of them give their best to me. I remember the lessons and techniques of my first teacher in Kaliningrad, the concertmaster of the local symphony orchestra Svetlana Ivanova, who initially corrected my hand positions and made me fall in love with the cello. My Moscow teachers Alexei Seleznev, Lev Yefgrafov and Maria Zhuravleva took me to the professional path and shaped my character in the broadest sense of that word. I mourn for the Professor of Moscow Conservatory Natalia Shakhovskaya. Our musical world become irreparably desolated. She will always remain as an example of professional and human gift.
SPMH: David Geringas said that "unlike pianists or violinists, cellists know how to be friends with each other", they "dragged all their life that heavy box on backs, so they feel as fellows", they "used to travel around with that kind of mates". Do you support this idea?
Aleksander Ramm: I agree with the Maestro. Only organizers of festivals, managers and agents can make mathematical calculations, how many cellists they need. We, within our community, know the peculiarities of our instrument, increasing any transport and concert expenses. Pianists do not cause problems, they even sometimes do not need any orchestra. Therefore, all cellists understand that any played concert may be an excellent advertising investment in the future for our instrument and attract new listeners. Every year people appear in concert halls, who see cello music as "discovering something new". And, as I could already make sure and note, joyful experience.
SPMH: If you had the opportunity to meet with the great musician from the past, who would it be? What would you talk about with him?
Aleksander Ramm: First of all, I would like to meet with composers, whose music, not only cello, is part of my world - Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Myaskovsky, Britten. I would check my own guesses, feelings and tried to get answers to my thoughts. It would be interesting to talk with Jacqueline Du Pre, Herbert von Karajan, Eugene Mravinsky, Maria Yudina and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. And, of course, I would like to talk with Maestro Mstislav Rostropovich.
SPMH: Mstislav Rostropovich over his youth years tried to write music. Did you have any desire to try yourself as composer?
Aleksander Ramm: No, I think this is the case when you should believe in the Maestro`s experience. I'm still waiting for new cello concerts from my peers - composers. I hope that they are written and I will be honored to play them.
SPMH: According to Beethoven, "Music must strike fire from the human soul". What do you see as the music`s higher purpose?
Aleksander Ramm: Music can unite generations, which is perfectly visible in the concert halls of Russia. In every city where I perform, there are a lot of young people, which makes me and my colleagues very happy. Music can soften, for the time being, the world tension, sharing the particle of harmony with each person and "talk" with him about hope and faith. I am convinced that every concert of academic music - and I'm not just talking about myself - is a contribution to clearing the world from "dirt".
The Polish poet Cyprian Norwid wrote the following lines in the 19th century:
"You know the land where in the musician hands
All world swims, splitting the ice cakes;
When words have no power as tears and pain,
Words are silent - but sound and thought are one!
This poet, in my opinion, accurately determined the purpose of music.
You may see some Aleksander Ramm performances via the following links:
Pyotr Tchaikovsky "Variations on the Rococo Theme" (June 30, 2015)
Sergei Prokofiev, Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (October 24, 2016)
The Music House archive videos:
E. Elgar Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (October 26, 2016)
Recital - English Hall of St. Petersburg Music House 2016-11-30 Part I (November 30, 2016)
Recital - English Hall of St. Petersburg Music House 2016-11-30 Part II (November 30, 2016)