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'The Year 2010' (05/01/2010)

I hereby would like to wish everybody who is taking the time to read this -and thank you for your interest and doing so- a happy and inspirational 2010 in good health! A new decade, a new leaf!

Previous year has been an interesting year on many levels, globally as well as personally. The world economic crises certainly has made its impact and we all had to scrutinize personal, national and international affairs. Let’s hope greatness will come out of all of that, transforming 2010 into the beginning of a new Era. The year of rebuilding and a bright longstanding future.
On a personal level I was pretty crushed when an amazing Grancino cello came on my path for me to play on and purchase, but unfortunately I was unable to keep it. It was too expensive and the recession did not help my cause. Even though I accepted its loss fairly quickly, it took some time for my heart to lament and reconnect with my own beloved Italian cello. Nowadays rare instruments are so expensive that this generation of performing musicians is not likely anymore to own an instrument without the aid of investors or a Maecenas. Heart wrenching..
Due to the economic crises classical music all over the world suffers and is trying dearly to recover or even survive from some big blows. Faithfull sponsors are struggling to make ends meet and many had to pull the plug, often after decades of financially donating to the arts, thus creating a domino effect. Orchestra’s, chamber music series and concert organizers all over the world struggle for existence. Coming next season some long standing great concert series will no longer exist! In my case 5 recitals cancelled or postponed the recital in England and Germany!! A novelty in my career. I truly hope that is one and only time I’ll have to experience that..
2010 starts on a positive note for me as some great concerts are coming up. Performances with big master pieces like the Brahms sextet, Schubert’s string quintet and Trout piano quintet. All of them with wonderful colleagues I have not performed with before. Something to look forward to!
A dear colleague recently wrote me the following words that resonated with me and I hereby would like to pass this on to you: “May it be a year filled with opportunities to find fulfillment in many aspects of your life and may you enjoy good health above all. The simplest of blessings are often the most cherished."
Thank you Denis, well said..
Pamela Smits
the Grancino cello.. (08/09/2009)

In June this summer I got acquainted to a beautiful Grancino cello made in 1705 and was allowed to play it for a while. This museum quality cello came from a private collection from abroad and was offered to me for sale. This Grancino had not been played for many many years and secretly I named it ‘Sleeping Beauty’. It still had to wake up. Every day the cello continued to open up, sounding increasingly more beautiful and I fell in love with its noble tone and palette of timbre. This cello is a gem.

For the last couple of years I increasingly felt that I started to outgrow my own beautiful cello, an unknown Italian instrument with a Garlo Giuseppe Testore label inside. Not a strange thing to occur considering I have been playing my ‘Testore’ for over 18 ½ years now. I have travelled all over the world together with ‘my buddy’ and we share a special bond. Still, when I was recently soloing with a few orchestras it became clear to me that my cello struggles to cut through the often massive sound of the orchestra. To avoid being drowned out I have to favor ‘powerful playing’ more then I should, thus loosing many nuances in color. The danger is that everything starts to sound the same. Deadly for a piece like Schumann!
When playing the Grancino I felt the instrument is almost unlimited, having a rich spectrum of colors just waiting for me to find it and uncover the variety of sounds. Although far from easy to do! Due to the long hibernation of the cello it felt surly, sounding gritty and it needed to get its ass kicked to awaken. Also I had to get used to a new partner. When playing the Grancino a metaphor often came to my mind: Ferrari Formula one versus Mercedes Benz. My own cello is like a Mercedes Benz and I was learning how to play a Ferarri Formula one cello with its possibilities.
A very exciting voyage of discovery!
Despite the fact that I’m first buyer, it is very difficult to keep ‘the cello of my life’ and play on it for the rest of my concertizing life. The Grancino costs a large sum of money and I can invest no more then 1/6 of the instrument. It is not possible without help. Till a few days ago, for the second time I was very close to purchasing the cello with the aid of several investors. It all looked very positive, yet again the purchase fell through at the very last moment. Due to the world economic recession everybody is struggling. Foundations, Private- or government banks and people are all short of cash. In these times people are hesitant, or not able to make new investments, although investing in a rare instrument is a great investment by itself. One tends to want to wait for the conjuncture to seriously go up. Unfortunately, for me it probably means parting with the Grancino cello. By now a second buyer who has the financial means to pick up the bill, the Russian government, informed and made an offer.
Everything I could think of I have tried. No rocks I left unturned and everyone I know I have asked for help in this matter. If you happen to know someone that can help me…? If it’s not going to work out with the Grancino now, than in the future I again might need help for finding an instrument that is better then what I currently have. See, these times it is increasingly difficult for young performing string players to find an instrument befitting to their playing qualities. Not only are there less great instruments on the market, where only a few decades ago one could still find top instruments for reasonably affordable prizes, but due to the non-stop rising prizes these rare instruments are practically not affordable on you own anymore. As far as the Grancino is concerned there is little time and very little possibilities left.
I now need a miracle..
recomendationletter Janos Starker
Queensday! (30/04/2009)

It is Queensday in the Netherlands! Where did the last couple of months vanish to? This past period has been great fun with many diverse concerts and time just flew by. After having performed Schumann’s cello concerto with orchestra for the very first time (‘Het Orkest’ under the very encouraging and passionate direction of Russian conductor Alexander Vakoulsky), I drove to Germany immediately afterwards for rehearsals and concerts with pianist Sabine Simon, only to get back home for a short pit stop, rehearsing Schumann’s cello concerto with yet another orchestra, to fly out to London for a solo appearance. There I played with the London based Israeli pianist Daniel Adni, whom I met for the very first time at a rehearsal that afternoon for the evening’s concert! I have to say it was a really enjoyable acquaintance and the cooperation went very smoothly.

Besides working arduously I find it important to enjoy, when possible, some leisure time as well. Sabine and I visited a few times a playground in the woods with Sabine’s one year old daughter Sofia. I sincerely don’t know who enjoyed more all the different slides and swings, Sofia or I..  ;-D  I also love meeting people from all parts of the world, of all ages and professions and I took a lot of pleasure in some really wonderful encounters. In the vicinity of Frankfurt I’d stayed in an apartment of which the host is a retired painter/cartoonist. The image of his paintings and view from my practice room at a cute house in the woods with smoke circling from the chimney is something I won’t forget lightly. During my visit in London I stayed at a hotel in the neighborhood of the Wigmore Hall- the street sight showing predominantly Bentleys, Porsches and Jaguars- that was run by Indians. It really struck me how incredible helpful and friendly everyone was I met in London. Or would my moaning and cussing during the schlepping of my heavy flight cellocase up and down staircases of the hotel and subway through London perhaps be the real reason?

It is wonderful – especially during the uncertain times of the recession- to be busy playing al sorts of concerts. Although I have to say that I’m looking forward to, after a morning of teaching and doing some administration work, joining my friends in the festivities of Queensday. Queensday in Amsterdam..the entire center of the city transforms into a big flea market. Kids playing their violins or showing magic tricks to make a buck, games for all ages all though town. And of course, lots of beer..a real traditional Dutch feast. Good to be home! Let’s hope it says nice and sunny out there and that the pigsflu, or any flu, will not rear its ugly (pigs) head..


When writing the above commentary I was unaware of the drama that was taking place in Apeldoorn. It is horrific that somebody willingly and knowingly -aiming at members of the royal house- runs a car into a crowd driving at full speed. Gruesome that this open natured national feast is now hit as well by the excesses that seem to occur all over the world. People that are despondent and commit bloodbaths in a fit of insanity, robbing innocent bystanders (and themselves) of their lives. Incomprehensible. I sincerely hope that from now on people that see no way out will ask for help, getting the necessary help instead of dragging in others with their misery..
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