On November 19, 2022, I will have the pleasure of welcoming the wonderful cellist Eduardo Vassallo as our soloist in Alejandro Civilotti’s work “Auris Concertum”, with the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra at the Mondavi Center. I had the opportunity of asking Eduardo some questions, and below are his answers.
Christian Baldini: Dear Eduardo, what a pleasure to have you with us here in Davis to perform as our soloist in Alejandro Civilotti’s work for cello and orchestra “Auris Concertum”. I know you played the world première performance of this piece with the Buenos Aires Philharmonic. Tell us, why is this piece so special to you? How would you describe it to someone who doesn’t know it?
Eduardo Vassallo: It is a great pleasure to be here with you guys.
Yes indeed I did the world première of this amazing piece.
On saturday will be the USA premier.
This piece is very special because it was written during a terrible time for Alejandro; he won the Queen Sofia Competition (Spain);at that time he started losing his hearing and by the time the Queen gave him the prize he couldn’t hear anymore; She was shocked by the situation and a few weeks later he got a call from the Palace with an invitation to go and see the Queen’s doctors. They couldn’t do much but the only possible hope was a Cochlear Transplant, (One of the first in Spain at that time). The Queen Sofia paid for the operation.
The “Auris Concertum” was written as a thanks to Her Majesty Queen Sofia. He started working as soon as he new about the operation and finished it on the morning one hour before going to the hospital.
Without knowing what the outcome would be, this piece is full of desperation, anger, memories and hope.
I love very much the language, using all the registers of the cello is very challenging not only for the soloist but also for the orchestra.
CB: Tell us more about the composer, Alejandro Civilotti. How did you become acquainted with his music? Has your relationship with him evolved over time?
EV: We met many years ago, he is a very interesting person and we got on really well together. He invited me to participate in a very interesting project in Formosa North East of Argentina, a province without any classical music connection; he moved from Barcelona for more that 5 years, I used to go once every year to play chamber music and to supervised the creation of the “Tecnicatura de Musica”. The programme after much work it is up and running!!!!!
We became very good friends and I have played many of his pieces, in Birmingham, Buenos Aires, Brazil and Barcelona.
CB: Last month we had the pleasure of hosting at the Mondavi Center the wonderful orchestra that you play in, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. You have been their principal cello for quite some time now, playing under revered music directors such as Sir Simon Rattle, Andris Nelsons, Sakari Oramo, and now Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. Could you share with us some anecdotes or amazing experiences that you may recall from playing in (and from being one of the leaders of) this wonderful orchestra?
EV: I considered myself lucky to have worked with these great musicians. For me the most important thing was to witness the way an orchestra matures and moves on; each music director brought some different creativity and they each helped making the orchestra feel alive and with a purpose.
CB: You have played a lot of new music in Birmingham. Simon Rattle was a champion of promoting living composers. Are there any composers, works or experiences that you remember very fondly from this?
EV: Many, very difficult to single one out but the cycle Towards the Millennium was spectacular, it last 10 years with concerts in Cardiff, London, Birmingham and Vienna.
We started in 1990, and finished in the year 2000; each year we would be playing pieces from that decade, in 1990 we will played pieces from 1900 to 1910; in 1991 pieces from 1910 to 1920; finishing with the millennium playing pieces that had just been written!!! It was unique and I am very proud of having been a part of it.
CB: Thank you so much for your time and great answers. I look forward to sharing your wonderful musicianship with our audiences this coming weekend here in Davis!
EV: Looking forward to seeing you all there in this beautiful hall. I hope you enjoy my playing!!!
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by the age of 17 Eduardo Vassallo was a founder member of the String Quartet of the National Radio, and the solo cellist of the National Symphony Orchestra. Not long after, he came to Europe to study at the International Menuhin Music Academy in Switzerland, where, as a key member of the Camerata Lysy Gstaad he took part in numerous recordings, and toured throughout the world with Sir Yehudi Menuhin and Alberto Lysy.
From there Eduardo moved to Germany, where he became increasingly active in the field of contemporary music as a member of the WNC Ensemble für Moderne Musik. In 1989 he became Principal Cellist of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, firstly under the musical direction of Sir Simon Rattle, then Sakari Oramo, Andris Nelsons and Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, then as of next season, Kazuki Yamada. He was one of the founding directors of the Birmingham Ensemble (a chamber group drawn from the ranks of the CBSO). He has also guest led the cello sections of most of the main British symphony orchestras.
As a soloist Eduardo has given recitals throughout Europe and South America, and has appeared frequently with orchestras including several major concertos with the CBSO. In England he gave the world premieres of the Sonata for cello and piano and the Duo no. 2 for violin and cello by his compatriot Jorge Bosso, and the Sinfonia Concertante by Indian composer Vanraj Bhatia, and he performed the UK premiere of “Azul” by Osvaldo Golijov. In Buenos Aires his world premieres include the cello concerto “Auris Concertum” by Argentine Alejandro Civilloti with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Buenos Aires, and the Grand Tango by Astor Piazzolla.
In 2009, he formed a collaboration with Tim Garland (saxophone) and Marcelo Nisinmam (bandoneon) to create a multimedia jazz/tango fusion show called Transtango, first performed in the Bloomsbury Theatre in London, then at various festivals around the country (Salisbury Festival, Vamos Festival Newcastle, Buxton Festival etc). As a result of this collaboration, the CBSO commissioned Tim Garland to write a double concerto for cello and saxophone to celebrate Eduardo’s 20 years in the orchestra, which he performed with the composer under the direction of Christian Jarvi.
Eduardo Vassallo has 2 solo recital CDs, “Latin American Masters” on the ASV label, and “Tangos by Piazzolla” on the Somm label.
His love for the tango caused him to form “El Ultimo Tango”, a quintet dedicated to music from Buenos Aires, with which group he has released 3 CDs He was also a guest artist on the CD “Conception” by the jazz fusion John Turville Trio.
Eduardo taught for 32 years at the Royal Northern College of Music, and still teaches at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and has taught at summer courses in Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, England, and South America. He has regularly participated in the International Festival of Chamber Music in Formosa, Argentina, and Femusc in Brazil, and is the founder and director of the Latin-American Cello Festival, which takes place every 2 years in Buenos Aires.
In 2014, he became the Musical Patron of Rutland Sinfonia.
Eduardo Vassallo plays a Paolo Testore cello made in Milan 1710 and a Ferdinando Gagliano cello made in Napoli 1792.