There are times when life gets interrupted by, well, life. It can be any sort of change, a broken toe to a broken heart. Or moving into the bigger things that can affect the many, events like weather, which can go from a few hours to days, and even weeks, depending. Then there are the devastations of war, affecting everyone and everything in the worst possible ways, the effects are felt for generations. But this pandemic, seemingly coming to some sort of ending—or at least a segue into a phase that includes some degree of readjusting to how we were—it’s been positively epic, involving everyone everywhere. Not a soul left untouched. Everyone you know and everyone you don’t know.
It’s been mind numbing and further outside of anyone’s comprehension except maybe for those who are followers of science fiction. It’s just not something any of us has ever encountered or had planned for. It didn’t come with instructions and we made it up as we went along like a set of variations, only in this case, variants. Even if you are one who ‘goes with the flow,’ it has been challenging.
For musicians who are always ready to do their part and create some transcendent experience with their art, it’s been the challenge of a lifetime. Operating in an abyss of forced hibernation from the world and each other, we, the audience, need to applaud them for carrying on and surviving. Musicians are models of courage and inspiration, leading us toward the new tomorrow, whatever that is going to be.
For cellists, that means going back on the road, an alter ego inside of a large case the size of a human shadow in tow, navigating planes, trains, cars, and on foot, to all the places that have made invitations to perform.
Here is one now, Christoph Croisé, who made it through these last few years with a bunch of new projects. He is as cool as a cucumber. See for yourself…
Kathy Geisler: What is your current job in the field of classical music? (what are you currently working on)
Christoph Croisé: I live in Berlin and perform concerts here and there, from time to time. I came to Berlin for my studies eight years ago.
I am currently composing a cello concerto which I’ll be premiering on April 29, 2022 at my festival in Niederlenz, Switzerland. I also have a brand new recording that was released in early February of the complete works of Joachim Raff for Cello and Piano with pianist Oxana Shevchenko.
Kathy: What were some of your early lessons or experiences in classical music?
Christoph: I started playing the flute when I was about three years old and I just really loved it. My favorite day of the week was Wednesday because it was the day I had weekly cello lessons. My first cello teacher, Katharina Kühne, was a very motivating teacher and for children that is the most important thing!
I started taking cello lessons at the age of six and in our studio with Katharina Kühne, we had a concert once a year — so I had my first class concert when I was seven years old. I remember I performed three short pieces. For the third one, I reached out to my neighbor Katharina Litschig, who was a few years older than me. She had already played the cello for some years, and I asked her if she could play the accompaniment part of a piece with me. She very nicely agreed, and I remember I was so nervous that I got lost in the piece around three times and we had to start over again 🙂 Nevertheless I really enjoyed performing on stage and ever since then wanted to become a cellist. (Katharina Litschig would later become the principal cellist of the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin).
Kathy: What is one of your favorite places and why?
Christoph: Of course I love Italy very much because I love the culture, the food, the architecture, the (old) instruments, the sun, the art — but the right company can make any place magical!
It’s very difficult to pick one city in Italy, the regions are so different and every region has its own beauty, I love Sicily where I’ve performed many times. I had a great time in Umbria performing in a gorgeous private castle. I have been to Verona, Padova, and Mantova countless times for performances — and also for holiday, but I must say that Venice is one of my favorite cities in the world (if not my absolute favorite!). It’s difficult to explain why, but the city just never gets old. There’s so much to discover and so much art and culture. At least for me personally, I’m stunned every time I visit Venice.
Kathy: What is one of your favorite pieces and do you have a favorite performer or experience of it?
Christoph: When I was 12 years old, I discovered the music video of Giovanni Sollima’s Daydream and it helped and inspired me through cellistically difficult times but also in positive times, and even today I think Sollima is an absolutely brilliant composer. I especially love that music video!
Kathy: Is there an artist no longer living who somehow made an impression on you?
Christoph: Of course! As a child I used to listen to all of David Oistrakh’s albums and thought (and still think) that his sound is just incredible. There are many others also, but I’d like to mention some who are not from classical music and always inspire me: Funkadelic, Michel Petrucciani, Carlos Jobim, Walter Wanderley, Michael Jackson, Prince, and many more (not to mention the living ones!!).
Kathy: What is one thing you think will be different about classical music 100 years from now?
Christoph: There might be a new style?! (Since every century had kind of their own style, starting from Baroque, Classical, Romantic 20th Century, Contemporary, and whatever is next?).
Kathy: What is something about your work that you think most people have no idea about?
Christoph: Musicians work their normal 8–10 hours a day. In a way it’s kind of like sports. You need to put in your hours every day to stay in shape, to keep the fingers trained and fit and also for muscle memory. Every musician is different, but for me personally, I also need quite a bit of time to go through the pieces mentally just in my head. I need to play a piece through to keep the memory of it active — especially for playing concertos by memory — sonatas too. On that note about the memory (no pun intended), I can just say for myself, I prefer to play recitals from memory because I feel I can be more focused on listening and making music compared to when I am reading the music.
Kathy: Did you have any life-changing experiences that put you on the path that led you to be doing what you’re doing today?
Christoph: Not really. My work in music has progressed at rather a steady pace from the beginning. Of course there have been many ups and downs (and still are), but somehow I am always very motivated and I just love playing and practicing the cello.
Kathy: Is there anything else you would like to say about yourself, your work, or classical music?
Christoph: I can only speak for myself because music is received differently by everyone and touches everyone differently. I personally try to express my current state of being with my cello playing— that’s why for me there’s no such thing as perfection—only perfection in the moment.
In a year everything might already look different. My compositions for example, are just a snapshot of my state of being, nothing more and nothing less.
This article originally appeared on Medium.com in Humans of Classical Music.