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Q&A with Li-Wei Qin

15 September, 2023

Ahead of our concerts together in October, Australian cellist Li-Wei Qin answers eight questions in an exclusive Q&A session with us.

1. When did you first start playing cello? And when did you realise that this was what you wanted to spend your life doing?

I have been playing the cello since the age of 7, and right from the first day, I received professional instruction. When I entered Shanghai Conservatory primary school, it seemed that this profession was going to be quite 'serious' for me. However, it wasn't until I briefly left the world of music to pursue a commerce degree that I truly realized my passion for playing the cello and knew I wanted to continue playing it for the rest of my life. Such is life.

2. How would you describe Haydn’s Cello Concerto No.1 to someone who has never heard it?

It is one of my all-time favourite cello concertos. Listening to it will instantly brighten up your mood and make you smile.

3. You have performed all the great cello concertos around the world. What do you love most about this Haydn concerto?

While the Haydn D major concerto is an absolute gem, the Haydn C major concerto is perhaps a much more frequently performed work all over the world. I love it for the sheer joy it brings to anyone playing it, from a 10-year-old boy (that's when I first started learning it) to established artists!

4. Haydn is often called the Father of the Symphony, and the Father of the String Quartet. Is there something similarly groundbreaking in this concerto?

In some ways, this Haydn cello concerto was written perfectly for the instrument. It has it all. From the generosity of the first movement, to the absolute beauty of the second, followed by the velocity of the final movement.

5. The Sydney Symphony doesn’t play a huge amount of pre-Romantic repertoire. What should audience members listen out for in this work?

It is the word ‘elegance’ that is often associated with music of the classical period. One should never forget the joy of singing throughout the work, and the audience will love all the charm that this Haydn concerto will bring.

6. The Concerto is believed to have been written for Haydn’s close friend, the cellist Joseph Weigl. Do you feel any sense of affection or camaraderie in the piece itself?

As a cellist, as I mentioned before, it is a perfect concerto to showcase his or her artistry and musicianship. It also provides an ideal opportunity for the audience to witness some of the most intimate musical dialogues between the soloist and the orchestra.

7. What can you tell us about your 1780 Joseph Guadagnini cello?

It’s been my best friend for the last ten years! Old instruments are often compared to fine wine, and with proper care, they often improve with time. While some of the modern instruments have plenty of raw power (not that my Guadagnini doesn’t), the older instruments tend to have a little more depth and complexity in their character. The downside is, of course, they can be very temperamental, not unlike an antique car!

8. What would you like audiences to feel during these performances? What would you like them to take away from the Concert Hall?

After listening to this concerto, I hope the audience will leave the Concert Hall still enjoying the delicious aftertaste of the beautiful melodies and still feeling the exuberance of the final sprint in the last movement.