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Boy meets girl: It is one of those unlikely stories that the son of a village merchant in the middle of West German nowhere becomes a professor of Austrian law and marries one of the daughters of the CEO of the Austrian salt refinery holding and a Polish pianist. But this is exactly what happened. My father was born in Duisburg (of all places) in 1940 and grew up in a tiny village near Bonn. He then went to study economy and law in Bonn and subsequently followed his professor to Vienna where he met my mother in 1967. My mother had a very complicated family history: Born on a railway platform in Olsztyn in 1943, she grew up in Vienna and originally wanted to study music, but then trained to be a translator before finally graduating with a law doctorate. In 1970 my parents moved to Linz where my father became a professor of law and I was born in 1974. It meant that it was a homeless family with a strong Viennese connection that suddenly had another member of the family as a native Upper Austrian. Nowadays, with my aunt having been head of the Austrian National Heritage office and all my family living in Vienna, I feel more like being Viennese with a strong link to Upper Austria. Thanks to my father's background I hold an Austrian and a German passport.
I went to school in Linz, which was not what I would call the greatest time of my life. At an early age I started having music lessons first from my mother (who in the meantime also had graduated from Brucknerkonservatorium Linz as a music teacher) and subsequently from Helga Schiff-Riemann, the daughter of Hugo Riemann and mother of cellist Heinrich Schiff. It was soon discovered that I had perfect pitch but also suffered from severe hayfever, which - logical, no? - meant that the piano was a waste, wind and brass instruments were out of the question and thus the cello was the only option because violin practice was declared unbearable, the viola not even worth mentioning and the double bass ... well, impractical. In 1982, I started my cello lessons with Wilfried Tachezi at the Brucknerkonservatorium Linz and also continued my harpsichord studies with August Humer. At the Fall of the Wall in 1989 my father was a guest professor at the university in Trier and I, without really knowing how, won the Austrian Young Musicians' Competition. In 1991 I obtained a diploma from the Brucknerkonservatorium, being the youngest graduate ever at the time. This record was to be broken by pianist Andreas Eggertsberger a few years later.
In 1990 I meet Robert Cohen, and my father enabled me to spend school holidays studying with him and soon after with his teacher William Pleeth in London. Bill was to become the biggest influence in my musical and professional development until his death on 6 April 1999. In the first half of the 1990s, I also studied with Maria Kliegel in Cologne, living at my grandparents' house near Bonn. I owe Maria Kliegel a lot, especially regarding my ability to analyze cello technique, but the musical spirit, style and ethics of Bill Pleeth have never left me.
With a soloist's diploma from Cologne Musikhochschule, dating from 1997, I thought I was ready for the world. Little did I know ... After a few years of living in London, I returned to Germany, again to the house in Meckenheim near Bonn. In 2000, I was invited to take a teaching post at the Musikakademie Kassel which I kept until 2006, after a rather traumatic period around my mother's illness and death in 2004. In 2002 I had moved to Munich and subsequently realized that I am Austrian at heart. In 2005 I took a flat in Vienna and cannot really imagine to not have at least a place to go to in this most beautiful of all cities which I am fortunate enough to call home.
Since around 1992 I have received invitations from all over the world to play at great places and with some of the most astonishing musicians around. I am happy to call some of the greatest musicians of my generation not only "partners in crime" but also friends: first and foremost clarinetist Dimitri Ashkenazy, but also pianists Christopher Hinterhuber and Roland Krüger, violinist Lena Neudauer, violist Firmian Lermer and cellist Alexander Hülshoff. Besides working with people like them, I seem to have collected quite a number of elderly legends over the years: musicians like Jörg Demus, Dénes Zsigmondy or Eduard Brunner. It is this richness of life experience that I feel makes my life so exciting. In 1990 I got the chance to work with Alfred Schnittke for a week, and this experience initiated my fascination for a direct dialogue with composers. Sofia Gubaidulina, Howard Blake, Graham Whettam, Matthias Pintscher, Jörn Arnecke and many others were to follow, resulting in premieres of five cello concertos so far and countless world or national premieres of solo, duo and chamber msuci pieces. In recent years, I have reduced the amount of contemporary pieces that I play to those I really adore, being unsure if contemporary composing goes in a direction of which I think it should be particularly supported.
Between 2004 and 2008, I published all major etudes with Bärenreiter-Verlag and also recorded them all, the combination of which is why most cellists will probably exhale with a sigh when hearing or reading my name. Still, I cannot hide some satisfaction when saying that these editions are now literally everywhere. They are a huge success and have had raving reviews all over the world (except from one colleague who is writing for various Schott magazines and seems to have decided on a personal crucade against my editions). Musicaphon have so far published 17 CDs of mine since 2003 and paladino music has been a story of its own. In 2002 and 2005 Brockmeyer Verlag in Bochum published two crime novels that I had written together with my friend Reinhard Cebulla. I was responsible for the festivals "JSB" (from 1997 to 1999), "kammerMUSIK" (2001 and 2002), "Holzhauser Musiktage (2004 and 2005), "Wiener Gitarrefestival" (2008 to 2011) and "Klassik Musikfest Mühlviertel" (2007 to 2012) besides a number of smaller concert series at venues like Brucknerhaus Linz. Since 2010 I have also been recording for Naxos and have been an endorsement artist for Thomastik. I played at a lot of wonderful places, with a a great variety of orchestras, conductors and amazing chamber music partners while accumulating a ridiculous amount of airmiles (why would you want free flights if you just did 83 flights within the past twelve months?).
Looking at most recent years, 2009 seems to have been the one with the biggest changes for my life: upon recommendation of Klaus Heymann following Maria Kliegel's advice, I was appointed the cello professor at The University of Auckland, just twelve days before the official registration of the foundation of paladino music (now paladino media). Since then, I have divided my life between Vienna and Auckland, where I spend around four months a year now, have discovered sailing and made some great friends such as musicologist Allan Badley, Early Music specialist James Tibbles and flautist/conductor Uwe Grodd.
Being tremendously happy that my father has found new love after my mother died in 2004, I have loved and lost just like anyone else and am thrilled with what life has to offer at the moment. For me it is a great privilege to live the way I do, meeting remarkable people at some of the most beautiful places of the world, doing what I think is the essence of human existence: trying to understand how people interact and what it means to find the key to another human's soul.