Zoltán Kodály


Julian Steckel

Label: CAvi
Format: CD
Barcode: 4260085532728
Catalog number: AVI 8553272
Releasedate: 02-08-19

- Julian Steckel, in his thirties, counts as one of the most successful cellists these days
- Kodály’s Sonata solo for cello is a major hurdle of the cello solo literature to be mastered
- After 5 years (last recordings: French Cello Sonatas I & II) Julian Steckel shows himself as soloist and partner of the pianist Paul Rivinius and Antje Weithaas

ZOLTÁN KODÁLY – Works for and with Cello

“The piece is unlike no other of its kind”, Béla Bartók affirmed: “the world of ideas it contains is entirely new”. Timbre acquired an unusual, novel dimension by having the two lowest strings tuned one half-step down, to B and F#, respectively. Thus the three lower strings form a B Minor chord, which Kodály places in particular prominence at the onset of the sonata……

Julian Steckel was inspired to tackle this “Everest of cello literature” for the first time at the age of fifteen. The technical challenge was certainly exciting in itself, but he was also fascinated by the music’s beauty, and by Kodály’s special musical language – “even though at that time I didn’t yet know what was Hungarian about it, or what came from Debussy or other sources”, he remarks. Steckel proceeded to work on the sonata with several cellists including the venerable Hungarian-American legend Janós Starker. He studied the work’s historical background: “When you know where a certain music is coming from, it reinforces the sort of telepathic connection you feel with the audience, and you end up playing much more convincingly”. Janós Starker, for one, insisted that “all the beginnings, including those in the slow movements, are consonant. You should never play as if you were murmuring. In this music, none of the beautiful cantilenas ever emerge out of nothing. You must always remain entirely clear in your expression and in the way you produce the sound. The fact that the music is rhapsodic should not entice you to start playing freely all the time. Precise rhythm is of utter importance. Otherwise you would be fishing in troubled waters, and the music would become a sort of goulash soup.” ……

The same applies to the Duo for Violin and Cello, op. 7. Kodály wrote it in 1914, at the onset of World War I, just before the solo cello sonata. At that time he and his wife were in Switzerland. “We had to spend several days in a village on the border to Tyrol. That is where I was suddenly seized by a vision of this duo in my mind”, he wrote in 1924. “It remains to be seen whether others can sense something of the indescribable greatness of the mountains, or, rather, the dark premonition of impending war in this work.” ….

A certain quality of plainness is exactly what Steckel loves about the Sonatina: “With extremely simple musical elements as a point of departure, Kodály manages to create something truly ingenious in its originality, and moving in its simplicity. What a beautiful work!” ….
© 2019 Eva Blaskewitz


“As an interpreter, I’ve started trusting my inner life more and letting the audience in,” he says. “It’s
a kind of vulnerability that makes you stronger.” His first child was born at the end of 2018. Since
then, his conviction has grown, his sense for metaphor expanded.
He knows that making music for an audience occasionally involves tipping the scales too far one
way or another. But he is aware of his responsibility toward what is often called the “intentions of
the composer.” He dives deep into scores, investigating the organic connections that give a work
its unity. “If you know one room in an apartment, but not that the apartment has seven other rooms,
you won’t even understand the room you’re in,” he says.
For Julian, these experiences and encounters are the result of organic growth, not external pressure.
It’s a development that tends to happen when a musician of his ability goes through life with an
open mind.
His playing is effortless, unhindered by technical boundaries. He derives energy from appearing not
to try. It’s a quality that many look for and few find. He sees his talent and his musical upbringing
as a gift. His mentors are responsible for the rest.
“My very first teacher considered lightness and simplicity to be at the core of cello playing,” Julian
says. “Listen to yourself, plan what you’re doing, get it right the first time. I owe everything to these
insights.” He studied with Ulrich Voss, Gustav Rivinius, Boris Pergamenschikow, Heinrich Schiff and
Antje Weithaas. Now he is a teacher himself, at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Munich.
On this recording Julian Steckel plays a cello by Andrea Guarneri (Cremona, 1685). When he’s not
performing, he lives in Berlin.


“Antje Weithaas is one of the great violinists of our time.” FonoForum
Brimful of energy, Antje Weithaas brings her compelling musical intelligence and technical mastery to
every detail of the music. Her charisma and stage presence are captivating, but never overshadow the
works themselves. She has a wide-ranging repertoire that includes the great concertos by Mozart,
Beethoven and Schumann, new works such as Jörg Widmann’s Violin Concerto, modern classics
by Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Ligeti and Gubaidulina, and lesser performed concertos by Hartmann,
Britten and Schoeck.
With her enthusiasm, Antje Weithaas inspires the musicians around her, and she is thus much in demand for
“play-conduct” projects with international chamber orchestras. For almost a decade as artistic director
of the Camerata Bern, she was responsible for that ensemble’s musical profile, and from the concertmaster’s
music desk she even conducted large-scale works, including Beethoven symphonies. She will
likewise be making appearances with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra,
the Academy of Taiwan Strings, the Orquesta Da Camera Barcelona and Potsdam Chamber Academy.
Her greatest passion has always been for chamber music. For decades, Antje Weithaas has been
blazing a remarkable trail through the chamber music scene, with numerous CD releases to her
name and countless appearances with musician colleagues whom she counts as close friends. In
May 2018, audiences who attended Schwetzingen Festival were able to admire her artistic versatility
as that year’s chosen Artist in Residence.
Antje Weithaas began playing the violin at the age of four and later studied at the Hanns Eisler Academy
of Music in Berlin with Professor Werner Scholz. She won the Kreisler Competition in Graz in 1987 and
the Bach Competition in Leipzig in 1988, as well as the Hanover International Violin Competition in 1991.
After teaching at the Berlin University of the Arts, Antje Weithaas was appointed professor of violin at the
Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in 2004. She plays on a 2001 Peter Greiner violin.


Born in 1970, Paul Rivinius received his first piano lessons at the age of five. His first teachers
were Gustaf Grosch in Munich and Alexander Sellier, Walter Blankenheim and Nerine Barrett at the
Saarbrücken College of Music. He continued his piano studies with Raymund Havenith and Gerhard
Oppitz at the Munich College of Music, where he graduated with distinction in 1998.
For many years Paul Rivinius was a member of the German National Youth Orchestra and of the
Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra under Claudio Abbado.
He also enjoyed considerable success with the Clemente Trio, an ensemble founded in 1986: the trio
won the prestigious ARD Competition in Munich in 1998 and was subsequently selected as a „Rising
Star“ ensemble, resulting in guest appearances in the ten most important concert halls in the world,
including the Carnegie Hall in New York and the Wigmore Hall in London.
He also plays alongside his brothers in the Rivinius Piano Quartet, and since 2004 he has been the
pianist of the Mozart Piano Quartet, which performs throughout Europe, North and South America.
Paul Rivinius taught for many years as a professor of chamber music at the Hanns Eisler Academy
of Music in Berlin; he now lives as a freelance pianist in Munich.