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Q & A with Cellist Steffan Morris

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Steffan Morris cropped

Our Principal Cellist Steffan Morris is stepping out of the orchestra and playing the solo part in Haydn’s Cello Concerto No.1 at our latest concert in Middlesbrough’s Town Hall.

We spoke to him about what it’s like stepping into the soloist role as well as putting some quick fire questions to him…

How does it feel to step out to the front and work with your colleagues in that very different way? Is it very different preparing for a solo role like this as opposed to be being in the cello section of the orchestra?

It is different in some ways and not in others, but it does require a different sort of preparation I’d say. It might perhaps require a different approach to sound and projection, too. Sometimes when playing within an orchestra, we look for blend, to create a homogenous sound within sections of the orchestra or the orchestra overall, that provides a bedrock for the soloist to play on top of. In this Haydn concerto, this isn’t required so much as the role of the orchestra and soloist are so clearly defined.

 

When you’re playing the solo part how does the dynamic work between you and the conductor? Who makes the artistic decisions or is it a collaborative process?

It’s definitely a collaborative process, or at least I hope it will be! A conductor, soloist and orchestra each bring a different perspective and hopefully have many different ideas about a piece, and as with all collaborative music it’s a process of give and take and compromise in its most positive sense. That should mostly be left to the rehearsal room with lots of space left for spontaneity in the concert.

 

You’re playing Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C at this concert. Can you tell us a little about it and what you particularly enjoy about playing it?

I’ve loved this piece for many years and it was one of the first of the great cello concertos that I learnt! It has some tremendous challenges for the cellist and orchestra with lots of interplay between both parts. Compositionally its part of a natural progression from the Concerto Grosso form championed by earlier composers such as Corelli and Handel, whilst also taking from advances in cello writing by people like Bocherrini. C Major is such a brilliant key for the cello – bright and youthful!

 

And now for a few quick-fire questions to finish…

 

What was the first album that you ever bought?

Bach Cello Suites played by Heinrich Schiff (who Steffan studied with).

What is your current most listened-to piece of music / song / album? 

Bach – St. John Passion.

What composer or musician, past or present, would you most like to have dinner with, and why? 

Schumann for sure, he’s my favourite composer and would love a chat with him to get some insight into how his brain worked!

If you hadn’t have played the cello, which instrument would you most like to have played instead, and why? 

I’d love to be able to play the trumpet or french horn, they have some incredible parts to play across the repertoire!

 

Listen to Steffan play Haydn’s Cello Concerto No.1 at our concert in Middlesbrough Town Hall on 23 March.