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Sound it out
French cellist Christian-Pierre La Marca tells Divya Kaushik how Pandit Ravi Shankar inspired him as a child. After his maiden three-city tour in India, he is looking forward to his next visit to meet more musicians here and come up with an interesting improvisation
How Pandit Ravi Shankar influenced a child who grew up to be a world renowned cello player is a revelation. Christian-Pierre La Marca, an acclaimed French cello prodigy, shared that as a five or six year old he listened to a lot of music by Pandit Ravi Shankar. What he heard had an enormous influence on him and also formed the base for his understanding of Indian classical music. “Though I could not understand what he played but I have been very much interested in his music. Also I owe my understanding of Indian classical music to Yehudi Menuhin, the violinist who was a close friend to Ravi Shankar and their music was a good mix of Indian classical and old European. He was most visible in Europe then. I think Bollywood also has contributed to my little understanding of Indian music. It was shocking at first, but then I found it inspiring. It is different sort of pop,” said Christian, when he was here for his maiden three-city tour. In a programme organised by The French Embassy in collaboration with The Imperial in Delhi, Christian interpreted Bach’s first three Cello Suites on his famed 1725 Stradivarius, ‘The Vaslin.’ He will now be travelling to Chennai and Kolkata and will also be interacting with students here. The students will explore with him compositions for the cello as well as various instruments by French and other western classical music composers. “Though I don’t know what my experience will be like with students but I always start with listening and observing. But I will try to be as positive as possible. In Western and European classical music we teach with a negative attitude. For example, people will tell you directly this is out of tune, you are not supposed to play like that. One should be positive and encourage students. I try to keep up the integrity of music — as everything is written in our music, you have to respect the composer and stay focussed and yet encourage people to do something new,” he shared.
Christian’s musical training began at a very young age in Aix-en-Provence and later, Paris, Cologne and London. He further developed his art through master classes from Gary Hoffman and Mstislav Rostropovich, amongst other maestros of the instrument. He went on to become an assistant professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London from 2008 to 2010. Now he finds less time to teach students but he is surely excited by the response to baroque and all other kinds of music among youngsters. He said, “I think this excitement will only grow with the kind of exposure to different kinds of artistes and genres of music that we have on Internet. There is demand and liking for everything. For example, Chinese are kings of classical music. There are hundreds and thousands of pianists. In France, we still have a tradition for classical music, especially French cello is still considered cool, it’s known in the world and the best cellist are from France. I am very fortunate to take forward the legacy. Till 20 years ago, cello was not that popular, it was mostly piano and violin that ruled the scene. But now cello has come up big time on the global stage. I think it is because it is a very communicative and expressive instrument. This was the reason why I fell in love with it.”
Christian is not one of those musicians who are too rigid in their approach. He is open to improvisations and looks forward to collaborate with artistes from across the globe. “For example, I worked with an Iranian percussionist was totally free and I learnt from him a lot on improvisation. Indian music is very close to Baroque music traditions — it is full of energy and is close to European and German old classic music traditions. I tried playing with tabla once but it was so full of energy that it was difficult for me to go along. So I am now planning to focus on one composer and start with Indian instrument and finish with some improvisation. When it comes to improvisations, Indian musicians are different as they learn through it. For instance, when you learn music, the teacher plays and you follow. Whereas, for us, music is always about reading. We start to learn through reading, we know all the music by heart. We have a lot of difficulty in improvising because we are always into what is written,” he said. Apart from his plans to visit India soon, Christian hopes to learn to conduct and play more musical instruments. “At present, my focus is on concerts as I love discovering and meeting new people but, if given a chance, I would love to learn a lot more about my own instrument first and then move to others,” he concluded.
photo Pankaj Kumar
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