Your career as a chamber musician is as extensive as your career as a soloist – what attracts you to chamber music?

The repertoire. A life without the pieces having been written in the field of chamber music would be very poor.

Nicolas Altstaedt, Cellist, Ukaria 42Cellist Nicolas Altstaedt. Photo © Marco Borggreve

Who have been some of the most interesting collaborators to work with?

The Quatuor Ebène and Janine Jansen, for the intensity of work and the urgency of giving up yourself – starting each day, each rehearsal and concert from scratch. Having a strong vision of the piece and complete freedom in every phrase, combined with a harmonic hearing and living of the score.

With such a wide repertoire spanning contemporary to baroque music, are there any composers you feel a particular strong affinity with?

A composer I grew up with from very early on was Shostakovich. He was the composer I listened to mostly at the age of nine. But I can’t point out a particular affinity to a composer amongst so many miracles from Machaut to Ligeti. My latest discovery – that I got very emotionally involved in and attached to – was Haydn’s The Seasons (Hob.XXI: 3). Tomorrow it will be something else.

How important is it to you to work with contemporary composers and premiere new music?

It is essential and should be part of every musician’s life. Only through the process of working with a composer nowadays do you get a glimpse of what a composer in the past might have meant by using the notation he chose. You get an insight into the composer’s mind by being part of the evolution from a first idea, revision and final notation. Learning and performing a piece for the first time gives you a possibility of an unfiltered, pure and genuine approach to it without being ‘manipulated’ or prejudiced by recordings and established opinions.

What do you think the artists you’ve chosen will bring to the festival and why did you choose these particular artists?

Most important for me was the chance to meet new artists, and to create a space where different minds and perspectives can interact. As we have very little time, I am bringing artists from Europe [Vilde Frang, Lawrence Power and Denis Kozhukhin] with whom I have performed already the pieces that are dear to me. The focus of the festival will be taking the time to establish something together with the artists I haven’t met before – the young musicians from the Australian Youth Orchestra’s Momentum Ensemble, and Zoë Dunwoodie and Matte Roffe from the Australian Dance Theatre.

What are some of the highlights of the program for you – and are there any hidden treasures?

Every concert will be new and therefore very special to me. The people who don’t know the music of Sándor Veress or the 15th Symphony of Shostakovich should come, but especially for all the concerts with the Australian Youth Orchestra. They are the future of your country.


Nicolas Altstaedt curates UKARIA 24, which runs June 9 – 11 at UKARIA, South Australia

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