A few months ago, a new youtube channel dedicated to the cello was born. It’s called “Cello Kids”, and is the result of a project by two cellists, Valérie Aimard and Antonina Zharava, and a pianist, Cédric Lorel. Let’s get to know Valérie and Antonina.
When did you first see and hear a cello? And when did you decide you wanted to play that instrument?
Valérie I can’t really remember when I first heard a cello as I attended concerts very early. When I was 6, my brother who is a pianist invited the german cellist Julius Berger to come to our house in the summer for a week. They played together a large repertoire. I remember very well Prokofiev Sonata with the pizzicato, Brahms F Major with the pizzicato too (!), Arpeggione and especially Prokofiev «March for children». Julius Berger is a fantastic human being who left a profound impression on me. The following September, I said: «Well, I’d like to start the cello» and that’s how all started! We are still in touch today after all those years. He has invited me to give masterclasses in Augsburg where he teaches. We’ll play a concert together in June 2020 in Füssen (Bavaria) in the memory of our parents. I decided «I’ll be a musician» when I was 14. I kept it secret at that time because I was also playing tennis at a very good level. I thought people would tell «if you want to be a musician you have to stop tennis!» and I wanted to do both! But I never considered not being a cellist, it was clear for me.
Antonina My mother is a cellist so I think the first time I actually heard this instrument was before I was even born! I remember myself at the age of 10 listening for the first time to the Schumann Cello Concerto and knowing exactly what was coming next, I think it was in my DNA! At the age of 4, after months and months of asking I got a little cello at home, I think I considered it as a toy and my mum secretly hoped that I will soon forget about it. She even tried to make me play the violin! After a few lessons, I told that the violin has a very high pitch and definitely too high for me! So I switched to the piano, my first cello lesson didn’t happen till I was 7, I needed to struggle for my choice!
Where and with whom you completed your musical studies?
Valérie I was originally from Lyon where I was lucky enough to have Patrick Gabard as a teacher from 10 to 15. So important years where he helped me to build a very healthy technic on the cello and (most important thing!) taught me how to practice. Then I studied at the Paris Conservatory with Philippe Muller and Michel Strauss, who followed me for almost ten years. He was the one to tell me about playing with freedom, to speak about rubato and to give me the confidence I didn’t have at that time. After many masterclasses with David Geringas, Lluis Claret, Janos Starker, I met Bernard Greenhouse in Berne in 1992, who became my mentor. The first thing he told me was: «Express yourself and be creative». He changed my musical life.