Budapest Festival Orchestra
Interviews February 26, 2019

Brilliant music with one of the best cellists of Russia

Cellist Alexandr Kniazev is considered to be the most authentic successor of Mstislav Rostropovich. We wanted to know whether it was a conscious decision of him to follow the style of the greatest cellist of the 20th century? You can meet Kniazev on 27, 28 February and 2 March in Müpa Budapest.

Many believe that Alexandre Kniazev is the most authentic successor of Rostropovich. Is that a conscious decision that you follow his way of playing?

Alexandre Kniazev: I am very happy that such an opinion really exists, because Rostropovich was the greatest cellist and musician. I was never his student, because he left the Soviet Union in 1974, when I was 13 years old. But I really studied on his records, a huge number of which I found with big difficulty, because in the Soviet Union they were prohibited, it's true. However, I managed to find them. I could find and listen to them and it gave me a huge impulse in my understanding of the cello. And the real way of playing cello. Therefore, if there is such an opinion that I am his successor, then I really managed to understand a lot from his incredible technique, sound and way of playing the cello. And I am very happy if this opinion really exists.

Shostakovich declared that he wrote the Cello Concerto No.1 for Rostropovich, who was his good friend and student. It must be hard to fulfill the expectations Shostakovich had…

Of course, the concert is dedicated to Rostropovich and written for him. But I think that Shostakovich was such a great composer that when he was composing, he wrote only music, never thinking about who and how would play it. Yes, he wrote a very difficult musical work hoping that Rostropovich will be able to play it. However, we know that other cellists played it later on as well. Now Shostakovich's concert is played by a huge number of cellists. Therefore, I still think that he just wrote brilliant music, as he understood it and I think that all his works are pure music in his understanding. Just one thing which I could say, for me in this concerto is the most important the second slow movement, it gives us the explanation for what tragic is.

Is there a definite style that you personally prefer while playing the cello?

A.K.: I don't have any special style. I don't do anything special. I'm trying to play in an absolutely natural way. I play music as I understand it. Nothing special.

What is the most important thing to know about Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No.1?

A.K.: It's a brilliant piece of music. One of the best examples of cello concertos in the 20th century. But music is good, because it is abstract and everyone understands it in his own way. For me, Shostakovich's concert is one of my favorites. But music is so good that it speaks for itself.

In 1999, you were named the Best Musician of the Year in Russia. This sounds to be a great honor, since there are many outstanding musicians in Russia.

A.K.: Yes, it was a really great honor, because this nomination “Best Musician of the Year in Russia” has a really high level. I think that this award did not give me anything special, because my career developed by itself before and after this award.

The concert in Budapest will be conducted by Pinchas Steinberg. Have you played with him before?

A.K.: Unfortunately, I don't know this outstanding conductor, but I will be very happy to collaborate with him. And I'm sure everything will be brilliant.