Martin Rummel – A wanderer of the cello
The cellist, who loves to explore lesser known music, returns to Bach with the second volume of (re)inventions for paladino music.
What do you try to express or say with “Bach (re)inventions” on the paladino music label, now with a new, the second volume?
This is the fourth volume of Eric Lamb’s and my (re)invention series, after the first Bach, a Mozart and a Schubert recording. It follows a tradition of arranging and reimagining works of the past that has somewhat been lost over the Originalklang movement. Bach’s multi-part keyboard works can be easily transformed into chamber music. Arranging is, of course, something which he did as well – think of the gamba sonata that became the double flute sonata or the violin concerto that turned into a keyboard concerto. As musicians, I think it is vital that we spend as much, if not more time studying repertoire that is not originally for our instrument. I honestly think that Bach would not mind, as long as we try to capture the spirit and remain respectful to the music. We also wanted to expand the range and were very happy that Elisabeth Kufferath, member of the Tetzlaff Quartett, accepted our invitation.
Here, Bach is combined with Kurtág …
Kurtág’s own Bach transcriptions that he and his wife play so magically form a beautiful link to this project. His Signs, Games and Messages, from which the short cello and flute solo pieces are taken, are similar to the Bach pieces in length, and – while of course in a completely different musical language – also in their emotional expression. Think of the F Minor invention, and the Doloroso. I also find that some movements of the solo cello, violin or keyboard works have resemblance with some of Kurtág’s short pieces. After the first (re)invention recording of five years ago (PMR0039), we thought that having a complimentary set of contemporary pieces on the second would round this project off nicely. Kurtág seemed like the obvious choice.
Martin Rummel is a friend of reinventions, like the one you created of Schubert’s Winterreise …
Schubert is the composer who is probably closest to my heart. As my piano skills are not good enough anymore to even dream of public performances, I looked at other works that I could play. Besides the Duo in A Major (D574) or the Fantasie in C Major (D934), the Lieder are most obvious, particularly for cellists, as we can play them in the original keys and registers. I first tried that in concert with Henri Sigfridsson more than 20 years ago, and the Winterreise project first happened with Norman Shetler and August Zirner fifteen years ago. Norman then chose it for the celebration of his 80th birthday in Musikverein in Vienna, and when we left the stage, he told me that he was not sure if he had ever enjoyed the Winterreise more. While that is very flattering, I am very aware that he had done it with virtually every great singer of the 20th century, including Peter Schreier and Hermann Prey. What I find exciting about it is that as a cellist, you can only play it meaningfully if you really know the text. A note that has “heart” or “love” as its word, clearly has to sound different than “pain”, and so on. Bowings must reflect words and breathing, and I enjoyed rethinking my playing enormously. This is still one of my all-time favorite concert programs, and hearing the text separately reminds me how modern the entire cycle is.
You perform a lot of unknown chamber music …
I was lucky enough to have been artistic director of a chamber music festival for six years, and to have curated a few mini festivals for concert halls. When you look at any of the great composers’ works, you always find the lesser known contemporaries, predecessors or successors. I always find it great to place music in its context – and so much very good or even great music has been forgotten, sometimes only thanks to a publisher who went bankrupt, or other unfortunate circumstances. Why always only repeat the known?
Also, you edit and rescue music unknown to the world …
Aside from the superstars, most composers are known for one or a maximum of a handful pieces, and in some cases not even their best works – David Popper, of course, is the most obvious example for cellists. Everybody plays the etudes, and maybe the Gavotte, Op. 23, and the Elfentanz. Yet there are so many more, and much better pieces, including the Concertos, which I just released on the Naxos label (8.573930) and even a string quartet. Cellists always complain that our repertoire is so small. I could not disagree more: I now play more than 60 works for cello and orchestra, and over 100 duo works, and there is still more than a lifetime of works that I have not learnt yet. Convincing concert promoters to program lesser known works is a different story: Take the Zani Concertos (Capriccio C5145), which caused quite a stir in 2013 (twelve new cello concertos from the 18th century!), but when you suggest them to an orchestra or a promoter, the first answer is: “Well, can’t you rather play the Haydn, please …”. For the 2020 Beethoven year, I try to push for Ries (Naxos 8.573726 and 8.573851) – wish me luck for that!
Have you had a very intense summer of Festivals?
Due to my current role as Head of School at the University of Auckland, I unfortunately could not accept all invitations for this year’s festival season and had to jampack a six-week period in Europe with a variety of stuff. I am just back from a few performances of the Schubert Quintet with the Acies Quartett, last at the Tiroler Festpiele, and look forward to more chamber music, including a concert at the Carinthischer Sommer. We also have a very busy release schedule at paladino media (particularly on the paladino music and KAIROS labels, which both have important anniversaries this year), which adds to the fun. I feel very privileged to have such a variety of activities in my life, and am certainly not bored …
Have you been playing in Spain recently? Maybe any upcoming concerts?
I have not been to Spain for a while, unfortunately, but would love to return! A highlight that I remember very fondly was the premiere of Dorian Rudnytsky’s Costa Blanca Suite for cello and orchestra in Alicante – what a gorgeous place!
The original of this interview was published
in the September 2019 issue of the RITMO magazine, #ritmo932 .
Published here with kind permission from RITMO.