HAPPENED TODAY - On December 7, 1887, the pianist and composer Ernst Toch was born in Leopoldstadt

Adrian Bradbury

Today, in London, we meet the cellist Adrian Bradbury for an interview… 

When did you start to play the cello?
Aged seven

Why the cello and not another musical instrument?
My cousin looked at my hands one day and said “Adrian should play the cello, his hands look the right size!” My identical twin brother somehow escaped her observation, though he took up the clarinet two years later and is now principal clarinet in the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

Who was your first (and/or most important) cello teacher?
My first teacher was Julia Pringle of whom I have happy memories – she was an old-ish lady living with her formidable violinist sister and at least two pug dogs in a big house in west London. She was a devoted teacher – she would give us pupils lots of little presents such as carefully copied music and cello-playing frog ornaments. I found out recently that she was also Steven Isserlis’s first teacher, so I was in good company! My next teacher (aged 13) was Lilly Phillips, she lit my musical flame and again I think her secret was how much she cared for her pupils: I remember her once saying “I was up all night worrying about which piece we should choose for your next concert” and it dawned on me then how invested she was in my progress – that was stimulating and made me practice harder. I then moved (aged 18) to David Strange, the legendary principal of Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and then Royal Opera House. He had coached me from a young age in the National Youth Orchestra, and as a teacher he grounded my technique through countless studies which were never to be played without stage-worthy musicianship. I then went to Berlin (aged 21) for a year to learn with Goetz Teutsch, solo-cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic – I think it’s healthy for any English player to go to Germany and learn to explore the bridge!

Who is your favourite composer?
Whether it be cats, children or composers I never have favourites! But the ones I never tire of are the usual suspects – Bach, Beethoven, Brahms – and from your country Corelli, Verdi, Dallapiccola to name but three.

What is your favourite composition?
Again, no favourites, but Brahms Requiem would be hard to live without..

What is the concert you remember with most pleasure?
Maybe Gurrelieder with the European Community Youth Orchestra and Claudio Abbado – it was a big and terrifying occasion in the Pbilharmonie, but after weeks of studying it in depth with fellow young musicians from all over Europe it was a magical experience.

Do you prefer to play alone or with others …. ?
With! Music is nothing without interaction (even if it’s just left hand with right hand)

What are your musical projects for 2018?
This month I have concerts with two of my favourite groups: Touchwood piano quartet (revisiting the Copland piano quartet) and Composers Ensemble (all contemporary repertoire, including Adès and Woolrich). In Spring and Summer I will be coaching the cellos of the National Youth Orchestra, and August also includes festivals in Nuremberg and Burton Bradstock. At the end of September I’ll be recording my second disc of Operatic Fantasies by Alfredo Piatti with pianist Oliver Davies. Throughout 2018 I’m also acting as guest principal cello for the Ulster Orchestra – I really enjoy their projects because they are imaginatively programmed and often broadcast by the BBC. And I am always in and out of studios doing commercial projects (films and TV, and now computer games!) which pay the mortgage and can be musically rewarding at the same time!


© Photo by Richard Hughes, Meridian Records