Get to know Sol Gabetta

Sol Gabetta sat on floor posing with cello

What drives you as an artist?

For me, the most important thing is to not just have a higher quantity of concerts, but to aim to reach a higher level. As musicians, we practise for years to reach higher technical levels. On top of that, we are always trying to become more musical, although these are both very abstract.

What is more concrete is to be able to see more details in a piece, and how something unique can appear in any moment. So that after a concert, the audience can go home and experience the feeling, and the want to come back to a concert again, with me or any another musician. I think this is the privilege of being on stage, so I try today to make every moment on stage feel unique for the public, and also for me.


What are you most looking forward to about coming to play in London?

In London, I hear a very good level of concerts, and this is something that impresses me every time I visit. The Philharmonia has this quality of professionalism from the very first note of the rehearsal until the last note of the concert.


When did you first learn Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 and what do you love about the piece?

I think I was around 14 years old, and the first thing my teacher taught me is how to keep the energy until the end of the piece. Because after the cadenza you are already dead! You have no energy any more, both physically and emotionally. I actually played a lot of sports every day just to be trained to play this piece until the end. Many times, at the end of the piece, I would be barely holding my bow with all the strength I had from my hands and fingers. I felt almost not like a cellist anymore. This is really a tour de force of a piece.

Today, it’s a little bit different as I am much more experienced, I play on stage all the time, and I am physically stronger than when I was at 14 years old. I think that I keep my energy much better from the beginning until the end.

For anyone learning the piece, even if you are start playing very strong and with a lot of character, you need to be careful as you have still three other movements to play. You always have to think about how to keep this energy until the last note of the piece.


What is something we might not know about the concerto?

For me, this piece is a classic concerto in the cello repertoire. Particularly because this piece is so well written for cellists. It was written for Mstislav Rostropovich, and there aren’t many pieces with such a great cadenza in the middle. It’s a great example of a concerto. Today if you commission a new concerto, I always think that the cello needs to have a big cadenza somewhere, because these give endless possibilities for the cellist to present a range of colours and ways to play with the instrument.


Sol Gabetta joins the Philharmonia Orchestra and our Principal conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali for Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 at the Royal Festival Hall, London on Thursday 6 June.