Throughout the ages, women have been the muse of great artists and musicians. However, history doesn’t tell us how many found inspiration in the fourth grade.
Renowned Israeli cellist Amit Peled, who will join the Fort Wayne Philharmonic for the Bizet’s Carmen Masterworks concert Saturday, willingly admits that it was his attraction to a schoolmate that sparked his love for music.
To be honest with you, I didn’t come from a musical family. I literally had never saw a cello before, Peled says during a phone interview from his home in Baltimore. It was purely an interest because this girl played cello and I saw her practicing and carrying the cello. I just thought I should do the same thing since we had to pick an instrument. Sure enough, I fell in love with the instrument and the voice of it.
At 6-foot-5, Peled, a basketball fan, could have played for a team. Instead, he has become a musician known for his combination of accessibility and artistry.
Peled has traveled from the United States to Europe to the Middle East to Asia, playing his cello with what the New York Times described as a glowing tone, a seductive timbre and an emotionally pointed approach to phrasing that made you want to hear him again.
Although he was still a young student, Peled was considered far behind other children who eventually grew up to be professional musicians. He had to go through the physical pain of working on posture and finger placement, which comes more naturally to children who start at a much younger age. Having a consciousness of his body created an imprint he believes has made him a better instructor.
When you start to play an instrument at age 4 or 5, it’s a lot about games. Your teacher shows you something and you try to imitate it. You really don’t understand it, he says. I started when the conscious was stronger than the subconscious. I had to analyze everything. I think that’s part of the reason why I love teaching and why I think I do it well, because I always had to catch up with intellect rather than just imitation.
I’m thankful for it in a way because I had to start playing the right way rather than playing it bad, and then figuring out what to fix.
This will be Peled’s second appearance with conductor and artistic director Andrew Constantine and the Philharmonic. The orchestra’s title performance includes Spanish-inspired selections from Georges Bizet’s 1875 opera, Carmen, including pieces The Toreadors, Habañera and Gypsy Dance. Following Carmen, Peled will perform Ernest Bloch’s 1916 composition, Schelomo: Hebraic Rhapsody for Violoncello Solo and Orchestra.
It’s wonderful to be working again with Andrew (Constantine) and the orchestra. I’ve worked with them once before, and it was a really marvelous collaboration. As a traveling musician you just jump from one place to another, but the one good part about it is that you get to meet these special people, and they become your friends that you visit again and again, he says.
My only time to listen to symphonies is after I play my concerto, because I don’t have time to go to concerts. I’m looking forward to after I’m done with my Schelomo,’ so I can put my cello away and listen to the orchestra, he adds.
Schelomo was first composed for a vocal performance accompanied by an orchestra; however, the Swiss-born composer was unable to complete his original idea. He decided to write the piece for cello instead, which Peled says is similar to the human voice.
It’s one of the most monumental pieces for the cello. It’s like a dream for every cellist to play and for every conductor to conduct it, he says.
As a cellist, my part of the piece is about Solomon and all of his majestic powers, being the smartest man on earth and having all the women he wanted. In the span of 20 minutes, the orchestra serves as the congregation of Israel, and it’s this conversation between the people of Israel and Solomon.
It shows the power that he has in making Israel the biggest empire – the orchestra sections are huge, and they become bigger and louder. It’s like you’re playing as an empire that has grown so strong. Then at the end, you realize power is not everything.
The evening will conclude with Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, a piece written during the Soviet Union’s Great Purge in 1937; the music symbolizes the composer’s artistic repression as he tried to please the Soviet audience and conform to societal pressures in order to save his life.
Peled says the drama in each piece builds upon another, warming up the audience for the powerful finale.
I think Carmen’ is such a different piece. I would say it’s a crowd pleaser, and I think just before Schelomo,’ it makes the public feel good, warm and safe, and it puts a smile on your face before you go down into Schelomo,’ he says. Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5’ is such a great symphony, but one needs the preparation for it. Both emotionally and spiritually, Schelomo’ takes you to a different place, but Carmen’ shows the beauty of the world and everything we like about classical music.
As a professor at the Peabody Conservatory of Music of the Johns Hopkins University and father of three young children, Peled says communication between musicians and audiences keeps both parties inspired by the music. He says that he likes to speak honestly about how his performances pertain to his life and love of music.
I have three young kids, so my wife and I don’t have time to go to concerts or even go out for that matter. So if we do go out, we need to get a babysitter, then something to eat, you get to the concert hall, and then you need to park. Of course, you’ve worked all day the day before and you’re dead tired. If you sit in the concert hall, and it’s boring, you’re going to fall asleep, he says. For us to get excited about going out after all day with the kids, and this and that, you need to feel like it’s just not a representation of this old thing where we have to behave and dress up nicely.
I strongly believe that even for people who don’t like classical music, when you have a human being onstage that’s sincere and showing emotion, you will feel it. It’s exactly like when you talk to someone. When they’re lying or closed, you feel that, but if they speak to you honestly, you will be drawn to them in a way. Music is a language – you just have to speak it openly.