Never before have there been so many first-class cellists working as soloists as there are today. Typically, these are forty years old and younger. Why this is so would have to be investigated more closely. In any case, Nicolas Altstaedt, who was born in Heidelberg, is one of these internationally successful top cellists. His appointment in 2012 as the successor to violinist Gidon Kremer at the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival is tantamount to an accolade. In addition, in 2015 he was again appointed artistic director and also principal conductor of the Haydn Philharmonic, founded by Ádám Fischer from members of the Vienna Philharmonic and major Hungarian orchestras. He also holds a professorship in cello at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin. Nicolas Altstaedt may therefore rightly be called a universal musician and not only an excellent cellist.
One focus of his activity concerns new music. Thus, he worked with composers Thomas Adès, Jörg Widmann, Matthias Pintscher, Sofia Gubaidulina and Bryce Dessner and HK Gruber. In 2011 year, he played composer György Kurtág's double concerto in Budapest for his 85th birthday, and in 2012 he performed the cello concerto Versuchung for Wolfgang Rihm's 60th birthday. In 2017 he performed the Finnish premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen's Cello Concerto at the Helsinki Festival.
The new music is also the subject of his album Creation. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival, he invited composers to create new works for the festival's birthday. Two cello concertos are the main works on the album, the one by Helena Winkelmann lasts 25 minutes, the one by Raphaël Merlin 15 minutes. The rest of the program consists of short pieces for various instrumentations, compiled under the title Premières Musicales. In the best manner of the Musikfest, Nicolas Altstaedt has invited like-minded musician colleagues to the birthday celebrations who have chamber music at heart. Altstaedt himself can be heard as soloist in the two cello concertos that had been premiered. For her cello concerto Atlas, Swiss composer Helena Winkelman was inspired by Greek mythology and the fate of Atlas, who was punished by Zeus by having to carry the firmament above the earth. This cello concerto, conceived as a tone poem, leaves a lasting impression on the listener thanks to a refined composition. The Cello Concerto Merlin by Raphaël Merlin proves to be an exciting work that relies less on dramatic eloquence and communicativeness than the Cello Concerto by the Swiss composer, but which is also convincing in its quieter way. The commitment and dedication of Nicolas Altstaedt to these two concertos is remarkable and represents a crucial part of the success that the two works have enjoyed with the audiences of this Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival.
The other short world premieres on the album feature violinists Ilya Gringolts and Vilde Frang as soloists, among others. The Cello Concerto by Helena Winkelmann is conducted by Barnabàs Kelemen, and for the Cello Concerto by Raphaël Merlin the composer himself is on the podium.
Creation documents the successful fortieth anniversary of the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival, which even after such a long time has lost none of its appeal thanks to the constant full commitment of its musicians, but also the enthusiastic audience. Moreover, this album documents in a lasting way that Nicolas Altstaedt is a worthy successor of the festival founder Gidon Kremer.
Nicolas Altstaedt, cello
Helena Winkelman, violin (track 4)
Vilde Frang, violin (tracks 8-13)
Gidon Kremer, violin (track 17)
Ilya Gringolts, violin (tracks 4, 5, 14, 15)
Tatiana Grindenko, violin (track 16)
Meesun Hong Coleman, violin (track 6)
Nicholas Rimmer, piano (tracks 14, 15, 22)
Julian Hedenborg, piano (track 5)
Joonas Ahonen, piano (track 6)
Zsolt Fejervari, double bass (track 4)
Peter Szabo, cello (track 4)
Lockenhaus Strings (tracks 1-3, 18-21, 23)
Kremerata Baltica (tracks 16, 17)
Raphael Merlin, conductor (tracks 18-21)