On February 17, 2024 the Candlelight Concert Society will feature the world renown British cellist, Natalie Clein. Along with Ms. Clein, the pianist for that evening will be the seasoned veteran, Qing Jiang. Clein’s performance will feature Rachmaninov’s impressive “Sonata in G minor for Cello and Piano” and also include pieces by Bach, Schubert, and Bloch. There will also be a special piece by Elisabeth Lutyens, a fellow countrywoman of Clein’s.
Cellist Natalie Clein is one of Britain’s brightest talents who has won accolades and fans around the world since coming to prominence after winning the Young Musician of the Year at the age of 17. When Natalie Clein won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 1994, she chose to delay her entry into a worldwide career and go back to school. In the same year she also became the first British winner of the Eurovision Competition for Young Musicians—all this at just 16 years old. Following her studies at London’s Royal College of Music, she spent five years in Vienna under the tutelage of the Austrian cellist and conductor Heinrich Schiff, where her fellow students included Christian Polterà and Thomas Carroll. Natalie made her Proms debut in 1997, and spent two years on the BBC’s New Generation Artists scheme. She embarked on her first full season as a soloist with a gala concert at St. John’s, Smith Square and a recital disc for EMI, coupling the two Brahms cello sonatas with Schubert’s ‘Arpeggione’ Sonata.
Can you tell us more about yourself?
I was born in the south of England and grew up by the sea there. Both my parents were passionate about music. My mum is a professional violinist and my father adores music. My mother was dedicated to driving me up to London every week, which was about a two-hour drive away from where we lived, from when I was about 12 years old for cello lessons. So I’ll always be grateful for that level of dedication from her.
Why did you choose the cello?
As I’ve already mentioned, I come from a musical family so it was clear I was going to play an instrument. I started on the violin, but that was the same instrument as my mother so my father cleverly came home one day when I was around six years old with a small cello. It was love at first sight for me.
Do you have a favorite composer?
I can honestly say that I fall in love with most of the pieces that I’m playing—or else, I choose not to play them most of the time! Saying that though, I do have a few favourites—Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, the three famous Bs! It gives me inspiration for the whole of my life to know there’s so much wisdom written in the scores. I suppose it’s a substitute for religion in some way—the belief that this is something better and deeper and more meaningful hidden and there to discover. I’m truly grateful as it feels like an endless journey of discovery and joy.
If you weren’t a musician, what career path would have chosen or was there never any question?
There wasn’t really a question for me, whether I would become a cellist. It seemed more of a calling or a vocation than a career choice, and it still feels like that today, for which I’m truly grateful. That’s also what I hope for my children—that they can find some work in life that feels meaningful. I’ve also always been passionate about literature though, so perhaps I would’ve found something with the written word had I not already been obsessed with perfecting the art of playing the cello.
How much do you practice every day or every week, assuming that you aren’t traveling or performing?
I used to practice much more than I do now! The combination of experience, a busy teaching life, and even busier home life, with two young children leaves much less time for practicing than it did when I was in my 20s and early 30s. So, my advice is get that practice in—apparently a good 10,000 hours—as soon as you can! I used to love the meditative quality of hiding away and practicing. I still do. I would suggest a healthy chunk of four hours for a student. Saying that, I encourage all my students to “think five times and play once,’” rather than the opposite, so quality is definitely more important than quantity!
Natalie Clein will be performing on Saturday, February 17, 2024 at 7:30 pm, presented by Candlelight Concert Society at the Smith Theatre at the Horowitz Center at Howard Community College, Campus Drive, Columbia, MD 21044. For tickets and complete program information, go online.