Being Realistic About a Life in Music



Xavier Phillips is a first-rate cellist with a wonderful sense of style and control. He performed the Haydn C major cello concerto in a truly inspiring performance one year ago in Chicago at Northwestern University and it was a very inspiring performance. Additionally Xavier Phillips also gave a very insightful master class for the Northwestern Cello Class. In addition to being a great concert artist and chamber music performer, Mr. Philips is also a terrific teacher and on the faculty of the Conservatoire National Supérieur d’art Dramatique in Paris.

Xavier Phillips is by anyone’s definition a successful soloist and chamber musician. And yet, few know better than him about the sacrifices involved in making it as a musician. The Paris-born cellist who was “anointed by no less than Mstislav Rostropovich,” has a keen eye on the direction of classical music as an industry and a business.

Many people are worried about the future of classical music. Sites like Killing Classical Music are becoming a dime a dozen as more and more institutions that once offered a steady living for artists are disappearing.

“Everything seems to be crashing and falling apart,” he said, in the guest soloist’s room backstage at Uihlein Hall. “It’s become a struggle, a struggle for art…”

…Phillips, 39, sees the artist’s life as a sort of bargain. He gave up his youth to practicing, in return for the joys of the art, steady work and travel, respect, and a comfortable living. He understands he’s been blessed by life in many ways, but he didn’t factor in the current indignities of travel and the loneliness of a soloist’s life. He’s trying to figure out a way to play more chamber music and spend more time at home in Paris, with his 8-year-old son. He’s wondering whether to re-open his contract with life.

“I’m not bitter,” he said. “I’m just realistic about this musical life.”

Phillips shared these concerns in an interview only two days ago on Thursday, before his rehearsal with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and its music director Edo de Waart.

This paints a rather bleak outlook for the future. Of course, this is one of the reasons that String Visions is here, to help reinvigorate classical music. Nonetheless, it’s important that we keep it in the forefront of our mind that classical music is in trouble, and it will not save itself.

Xavier Phillips performed with the MSO last night (Friday June 3) and will perform again tonight with the MSO at 8pm. The program includes Elgar’s Cello Concerto, Dvorák’s Symphony No. 7, and Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber.

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Uihlein Hall
700 N. Water Street
Suite 700
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Tickets available at the MSO website
Or call the MSO ticket line (414 291-7605) and the Marcus Center box office, 414 273-7206

Xavier Phillips’ fantastic performance of an under-recognized work

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One Response to Being Realistic About a Life in Music

  1. Susan P-R June 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    We were in the audience for Mr. Phillips’ performance on Friday, June 3rd. It was entrancing. His projection, expression, and intonation were outstanding; I think Uihlein Hall is a difficult space for a cellist to fill. He certainly filled it well! I had not heard of him prior to the announcement by the MSO that he would be replacing Truls Mork as the cellist for this program, but I’m very happy that he agreed to step in and perform so beautifully. I sincerely hope that he will return to play in Milwaukee again.

    It is my hope that music’s place in the school curriculum will be restored. Until then, we must commit ourselves to supporting the non-school programs that strive to make up for the loss of those music classes that were once a staple of every elementary school curriculum.

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