String Visions: Now, I would love to talk to you about competitions. Your recording on YouTube of the first movement of the Arpeggione Sonata from the Paulo Competition is an absolutely wonderful recording. Your playing is very creative and very spontaneous, and the style is just perfect for Schubert from my perspective. You of course won the Paulo Competition. Do you have any advice for younger players on how to go about preparing for such a big competition? Can you tell us something about your experiences in relationship to that?
Andreas Brantelid: Well, I’ve only done two competitions in my life. Well, three… but two big international competitions. The first of them was the Eurovision Competition. I had to play for 15 or 20 minutes in the semifinal and 10 minutes in the finals, so that’s nothing to talk about.
String Visions: What did you play actually?
Andreas Brantelid: I played the Carmen Fantasy by Sarasate (my own arrangement), the first movement of the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata in the Semifanals, and the first movement of Haydn C Major in the finals.
String Visions: Then, for Paulo’s there are a number of rounds there.
Andreas Brantelid: Exactly. So that’s the only big cello competition I’ve ever done, and that was… let’s just say I will never forget those months before that competition. I practiced a lot simply because some of the pieces were new to me. I’d never played the Sinfonia Concertante before by Prokofiev. That was the first time, and I played three cello concertos: Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, and Haydn. I also had a big first round program.
String Visions: And a recital program in the second round.
Andreas Brantelid: Yes.
String Visions: That’s a lot of repertoire to keep under your fingers.
Andreas Brantelid: It was! I remember two weeks earlier I told my father: “I’m going to cancel this. It’s too much.” And then a friend of mine told me: “Just give it a try. It’s probably the same for everybody.” And, I thought: “Oh God, I’m going to be sent home after one round.” But then I went there, and I realized rather quickly when I was there just the day before it started that I didn’t want to think at all about the later rounds, only just the first round. And, I played and advanced to the second round. Then, I was only thinking of the second round program. I would never touch the Sinfonia Concertante. Then, I remember that I played the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations late in the night, and I was the last one in the concert. I finished at 11 o’clock, and we had to go to play with another orchestra in the second round that was in North Finland. After the concert we had to wait one-and-a-half hours for the results. And then I realized, “Okay, I reached the finals, and then there is a rehearsal tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock in Helsinki with Prokofiev.”
That was tough. So I slept four hours, and had rehearsal with Prokofiev.
And it was actually a good thing… that I didn’t have any time to prepare for it, because when I came to the orchestra it had been weeks since I had last played a note on Prokofiev Sinfonia. But, I knew the music, and it went surprisingly well.
String Visions: In the rehearsal?
Andreas Brantelid: Yes, in the rehearsal. Then I had two days to prepare and it was all okay. If I had to give one piece of advice to people who are doing big competitions: take it easy and don’t think of the next rounds, only the round that you are in.
String Visions: Oh, that’s true. It is much like professional competitive sports: one game at a time.
Andreas Brantelid: Precisely.