Askonas Holt is delighted to welcome French cellist Bruno Philippe to its roster for general management, collaborating with l’Agence in France.
A former prize-winner at the Tchaikovsky, Feuermann and ARD International Competitions, Bruno was named ‘Instrumental Revelation’ at the Victoires de la Musique Classique in 2018.
He has already performed with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Orchestre Dijon Bourgogne, Ulster Orchestra, Orchestre National de Bordeaux, Orchestre de Chambre de Paris and hr Sinfonieorcester with Christoph Eschenbach. He renews his collaboration with Eschenbach at the Maggio Musicale Firenze in April with Haydn’s Concerto in C major and will perform the Schumann Concerto with the Janáček Philharmonic in January 2021.
In recital, Bruno has performed at the Berlin Konzerthaus, Frankfurt Alte Oper, Teatro Colón, Philharmonie de Paris, Auditorium du Louvre and La Grange au Lac. An accomplished baroque cellist, he regularly performs alongside Jean Rondeau, Thomas Dunford and Lea Desandre and is a member of the Ensemble Jupiter.
Bruno records for Harmonia Mundi. His recent disc of works by Prokofiev were described by the Gramophone as “exceptionally beautiful reappraisals”. During lockdown he recorded the complete Bach Cello Sonatas. We caught up with him to find out more about this project and reflect on an unprecedented year.
You’ve been very busy since lockdown happened back in March – could you tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to?
Lockdown came as a huge shock – but at the same time it was a chance to rest and reflect, especially given the nature of our hectic jobs. Of course, we always try to interpret and serve the music to its best, but the music itself doesn’t really need us to exist in the year 2020!
In my case, most of the pieces which are so close to my heart have already been served so well during the past decades that my role could seem obsolete…! During lockdown, if we really needed to be in touch with the music, we just had to surf the internet; there are plenty of amazing recordings or live concerts to listen to and watch for continued inspiration. However, of course the question of live music and returning to the concert halls has very much been on my mind; nothing can replace live performance – for both the artists and audience alike.
My life during lockdown has been very fulfilling – there has been hope and tenderness, as I became a father for the first time, but also a feeling of sadness, as I did not know when I would next have an opportunity to play concerts again; without audience, we are nothing. What is the point in trying to search out a kind of truth, to develop our skills, to devote our souls to music etc., if it is not to be shared?
So in the end, lockdown has been a re-affirmation about how much I love my job, and just how much I need it to feel happy and complete.
Recording the Bach Cello Suites is a massive undertaking, but the perfect lockdown project to prepare and put together. What were the biggest challenges tackling this incredible work, and did you take inspiration from a particular cellist[s] of the past/present?
The answer is already in the question! Lockdown has been a blessing to finish my preparations of this recording. I had been working on it for the last two years, but during the three months without concerts it allowed me the chance to get into a deeper understanding of the Suites, especially because I finally made the move to play and record on a full-set of gut strings.
Performing on gut strings is not only something that, in my opinion, gives a real sense of authenticity, but it is also so aesthetically pleasing. For these Suites, it allows you to find an easier way to get the right balance between dancing, playing and singing!
So being able to work only on Bach for three months without any interference of other repertoire, really was the best way to deal with this incredible masterpiece.
I have been very inspired of course by a lot of great cellists like Jérôme Pernoo, Jean-Guihen Queyras and Steven Isserlis, but maybe even more of my inspiration comes from other instrumentalists or singers: Antoine Tamestit, Amandine Beyer, Jean Rondeau, Paolo Pandolfo, Thomas Dunford and the ensemble Pygmalion under the direction of Raphaël Pichon, plus many more!
I cannot wait to share the recording with you all in due course.
You have a special relationship with Christoph Eschenbach and have recorded and performed Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante (amongst others) with him and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. What has it been like to work with Christoph and where did you first meet?
I feel super privileged and lucky to work with Maestro Eschenbach! We met in 2014 during my studies in Kronberg, and since then, Christoph has been a mentor: he gave me so much time and guidance helping me with music, technique and life! We have now worked together on many pieces and he is an inexhaustible source of inspiration. He gives his time and energy in helping a lot of young musicians, and I am really humbled to have been one of them. I admire him as a musician as much as a human being; so much humility and benevolence in the same person – he is very important to me.
And what’s next for you in terms of performances/recordings?
Many recording projects that I am not yet allowed to talk about! But for concerts, I hope that the situation will change soon and that all the projects will happen – I remain an optimist and am crossing my fingers!
For my musical life, I very much wish to continue to serve the music and to play with people I admire, it seems to me the best way to improve and lead a fulfilling life!
I feel super happy and excited to be joining the Askonas Holt family full of artists that I admire, and to be represented by Suzanne Doyle. I could not wish for better support! Let the journey begin…