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Gerhardt celebrates with the National Orchestra ofWales as he builds on creating younger fanbase; International cellist Alban Gerhardt will make his Cardiff debut withWalton's Cello Concerto next week. He talks to Karen Price about his musical roots and making the classics accessible.

Byline: Karen Price

CELLIST Alban Gerhardt is determined to take classical music to the younger generation - but without making it more populist.

Although the German musician says that audiences for his concerts are getting younger, he is concerned about the trend for crossover artists who often only get where they are as they have a "story to tell" and then only enjoy short lived fame. Instead he wants to see more classical musicians make traditional repertoire more exciting purely through the way they perform.

"I think in general audiences are getting younger which is a good thing," says Gerhardt, who will make his debut in Cardiff next week when he performs Walton's Cello Concerto with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

"I go to concerts in Berlin quite often and when I was younger I only saw blue-haired older ladies and gentlemen in the audience but now you get a real mix.

"But I'm worried music is getting too populist. They are using the same patterns as pop music where they build up stars for two or three years and then drop them. They are famous not because they're musicians but because they've got an incredible story to tell."

In his publicity shots, Gerhardt, who is 40, is pictured wearing casual trendy clothes and in one he's sitting on his motorbike, with his cello at his feet. He believes musicians should be less stuffily dressed and actually "perform" to the music they are playing.

"Sometimes I feel musicians are not showing the joy they have with music," says the father-of-one who, since his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, has performed with more than 170 different orchestras worldwide.

"We play beautiful music which is sometimes funny and sad and exciting but you don't see that really on the musicians' faces. I don't want them to make big theatre but the performance shouldn't be too stiff or regimented.

People get scared by that." Gerhardt - who is enjoying a skiing trip in France with his wife Katalina, a Latino jazz musician, and their 10-year-old son Janos when I call - comes from a musical family. His father was a violinist with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

Hestarted playing the cello after his mother suggested it.

"I was playing the piano as soon as I could walk and then I played the violin when I was three or four years old but it didn't last long. At the age of eight, my sister picked up the violin andmy mother asked me if I would have another go at a string instrument and she suggested the cello.

"I fell in love with it and I had a good teacher who kept the love alive."

With his four siblings and moth-er also musical - his youngest brother Darius is a rock musician - he says there was no doubt that he would end up working as a musician.

"I didn't know any other profession - when I realised there were other professions, they left me cold."

He's now looking forward to performing Walton's Cello Concerto in Cardiff.

"I've only played it twice in my life. It's not a piece with a huge ending but it has beautiful melodies and expresses everything on a human scale. People with an open mind will love it."

He's worked with BBC Now in the past on a recording.

"I think it was my favourite recording session ever - the orchestra were so supportive."

The concert, conducted by David Atherton, will also feature a performance of Holst's The Planets, depicting the awe and mystery of the night sky, ranging from the menace of Mars, the serene sweetness ofVenus through to the joyous vigour of Jupiter.

It will feature the voices of female singers from the BBC National Chorus of Wales.

The concert will be recorded live for BBC Radio 3 and forms part of CelloFest, a collaboration between BBC Now, Welsh National Opera and St David's Hall to celebrate the instrument.

Works by Elgar, Walton and David Matthews will feature in the month-long celebration.

So what does Gerhardt, who lives in Berlin, enjoy doing when he's not performing? "I love to play tennis and I love to spend time with my son. He plays the piano and wants to form his own rock band as he's been inspired by my brother.

"I'm a very homely guy. I love to be at home and cook. We are currently in an apartment in France so I can cook our meals. I don't get to do that very often." Walton's Cello Concerto will be performed at St David's Hall in Cardiff next Friday, January 15, at 7pm. The box office number is 029 2087 8444

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SOLE BARING: Cellist Alban Gerhardt goes for the trendy barefoot look as he prepares to play with the National Orchestra of Wales
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 9, 2010
Words:800
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