Interview: Kyril Zlotnikov as a Principal(?) Cello in Staatskapelle

JIWON: How come this boy can sit on the principal position without ever passing the official audition?

http://www.timeout.com/chicago/articles/classical/19477/quartet-in-motion (April 12, 2007)  Jerusalem Quartet in Hyde Park

  • Time Out Chicago / Issue 111 : April 12, 2007 – April 18, 2007
  • Quartet in motion 
  • The intense Jerusalem Quartet lands in Hyde Park.
  • By Marc Geelhoed
  • MENSCHEN IN BLACK Sergei Bresler, Alexander Pavlovsky, Kyril Zlotnikov and Amichai Grosz (from left) are as dreamy as *NSYNC.”Whenever I have to ask for a quartet, I always ask for them first,” Elena Bashkirova, pianist and artistic director of the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival, says from Berlin. She knows the members of the Jerusalem Quartet as well as anyone, although her husband, Daniel Barenboim, recorded Mozart’s piano trios with Kyril Zlotnikov, the group’s cellist, last year. Both Zlotnikov and the quartet’s violist, Amichai Grosz, perform with Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra as their schedule permits. “They are one of the most interesting groups I have ever heard,” Bashkirova gushes, and it is difficult not to be won over by her enthusiasm. After a string of razor-sharp recordings on the harmonia mundi label, the group finally makes its Chicago debut at Mandel Hall this weekend. (They played at Ravinia in 2001.) They carry the great tradition of full-bodied Russian-Jewish string playing-think Jascha Heifetz-forward.The quartet has been together an astonishing 14 years and maintained the original lineup-violinists Alexander Pavlovsky and Sergei Bresler, violist Grosz and cellist Zlotnikov-from the start. Three of the four emigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union, with Grosz being the only native Israeli. Other quartets have stayed together for 14 years, sure, but most of them weren’t formed in high school. These four are only in their late 20s, and have risen very high very fast. They completed a cycle of the complete Shostakovich quartets in Dortmund this past season, and are regular guests at Bashkirova’s festival and London’s Wigmore Hall.
  • “We’re taking a bit of a break and time from Shostakovich,” says Zlotnikov from Jerusalem. Their gripping Shostakovich interpretations have garnered much attention, but they come to Chicago bearing Brahms, Haydn and Samuel Barber. “You cannot play too much of the same music,” he says simply. He adds quickly that another project, not as large as a Shostakovich cycle, looms on the summer’s horizon: performances of Brahms’s three quartets and his quintets. Try to slow him down, and the chatty young man keeps rushing through a list of upcoming composers and works and venues including Mozart and Beethoven and clarinet quintets and Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. Imagining him and the equally voluble Barenboim getting on well requires little effort. “We have half the Beethoven quartets in our hands already, but we’d love to do them all,” he says with a laugh.

  • Speaking of Barenboim and Bashkirova, “Amichai and I jumped from London for one day to play with Barenboim,” in early March, Zlotnikov says. The Jewish Museum Berlin held a charity concert for Darfur relief and Doctors Without Borders with Barenboim and musicians from the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, so they went to play a little Schubert over the Channel.So much does Zlotnikov admire Barenboim that when the quartet took a year off, he went to Berlin and played principal cello with Barenboim’s Staatskapelle Berlin. “Just sitting and listening to how he works on the symphonies of Beethoven and Schumann and operas, like Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal-I learned so much.”

    Bright young musician that he is, Zlotnikov brought that experience back to the quartet. “I remember the first rehearsal with the quartet after I came back from Berlin, and the things I could hear and could work on, it was unbelievable,” he says. “Playing the symphonies of Beethoven and straight out of that to play the quartets, it just opens your ears.”

    Granted, most musicians can’t play the entire symphonic and chamber-music repertoires. “You have to live two or three times to play it all,” says Zlotnikov with an impish laugh, which partially explains why they’re setting aside the Shostakovich for Friday night’s concert. With only one lifetime, the quartet has to play as much of the repertoire as it can.

    The Jerusalem Quartet makes its Chicago debut Friday 13. See listings.

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