Watch an exclusive video interview with Lynn Harrell.
Listen to an audio version.
Read a synopsis of the interview (below).
Lynn discusses some of the motivations behind deciding to become a musician – and he suggests that the fact that both his parents were musicians also had something to do with it!
So why the cello? Lynn describes how he saw it as representing his father's baritone voice, and also felt that the instrument fit him physically and personally.
He describes the admiration he held for his teacher Leonard Rose (1918-1984), an inspiring performer of great technical ability.
THE CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA…
With little orchestral experience behind him, Lynn was fortunate in joining the Cleveland Orchestra when aged 18. This exposed him to a wealth of music from the symphonic and operatic repertoire, not just the solo works he was accustomed to playing. After only three years with the orchestra he was promoted to principal cello, becoming one of the youngest principals ever.
Lynn has always enjoyed playing with orchestras, being a member of an ensemble, and part of a community of other musicians. One of the things that touched him the most was being able to listen to different instruments every day, and he also appreciated not having the pressures of being the soloist in an exposed role.
A SOLO CARREER…
His first solo break came when just 16 years old, when he played under the conductor Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) in Carnegie Hall.
Soon after he made a recording of the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the New Jersey Philharmonic Orchestra, a recording that was also nominated for a Grammy Award.
Lynn talks about the disadvantages of touring and performing, and the sacrifices that have to be made with family and friends.
Lynn is fascinated by Mozart, and describes him as 'Einstein and Isaac Newton rolled into one'. He is constantly inspired by the pathos of his music, and the humbling realisation of his awe-inspiring creative genius.
Schubert is another favourite composer, and he is particularly fond of the music completed on his deathbed. Again, it is the sadness of his music that draws him in, and he talks about Schubert's ability to compose music that touches all who hear it.
Lynn performs excerpts from the Rachmaninov and Brahms Cello Sonatas with Simon Mulligan on piano.
Lynn has two cellos, a 1673 Stradivarius that he has nicknamed 'Jacki' after its previous owner, Jacqueline du Pré, and a Montagnana made in Venice in 1720.
He alternates the two instruments throughout the year, saying that even though they are a box of wood, they each have their own voice that gets hoarse and tired and needs to be rested. When he swaps instruments he tunes the strings down, and puts the instrument in its case so that its not vibrating and singing out, or being bashed by bowing or fingering.
THE MUSICAL CENTRE OF THE WORLD…
Lynn discusses the differences in musical culture between England and America, mainly the contrasting approaches taken by the two countries.
He believes that music making in Europe is more attuned to the philosophical meaning of what music is supposed to communicate than it is in America, and this is one of the reasons Lynn gave for his decision to take up the post of Head of the Royal Academy of Music in the early 1990s.
One of Lynn's aims for the future is to give back to the profession through teaching and guiding young people. His philosophy is to concentrate on getting a student's playing in shape, after which career opportunities will naturally follow.
View more footage of Lynn Harrell and pianist Simon Mulligan rehearsing the first movements of the Brahms and Rachmaninov Cello Sonatas.