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Fifth gear

Frans Helmerson and Pavel Gililov
play at the Kronberg Academy in Germany,
reviewed by TESS CREBBIN


Mstislav Rostropovich calls Kronberg the 'World Capital of the Cello'. Since being founded in 1993 by the noted German cellist Raimund Trenkler who is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music in London, the Kronberg Academy has become the prime international locale of meeting, instruction, education, research and performances for cellists and cello-interested musicologists from around the world. Year after year, promising young cellists get the chance here to rub shoulders with their role models, even befriend and be mentored by them. At Kronberg, there is something for everyone who likes cello: even beginners can receive instruction at the academy, the good ones can attend masterclasses, the world's best cellists come here to perform, and every four years the cello Olympics, the Pablo Casals Cello Competition (PCCC), takes place, as it did this year until 5 September.

This international competition's aim is to determine the best young cellists from around the world and although 2004 marks only the second time for the PCCC to take place, it has already become the road to fame for some. Pergamenschikow-student Claudio Bohorques won first prize in 2000, the last time the competition took place. Since then, he has been making very good headlines wherever he has performed and many agree that he is set to become one of the next stars on the cello sky.

Talking of the cello sky, with Boris Pergamenschikow it lost one of its brightest stars in April of this year, but the Russian virtuoso is still as present as ever in Kronberg. Many of his friends sit in the jury, which Pergamenschikow was also scheduled to join for 2004. Now as the last time, one of his students was the big favourite for one of the top places (Julian Steckel, who came second), and so Pergamenschikow is still making waves at Kronberg, something that is not likely to change in the near future, especially in view of the new International Boris Pergamenschikow Scholarship that originates in Kronberg. It will be awarded for the first time in November of this year and is bound to become yet another treat that Kronberg has to offer to young cellists.

Boris Pergamenschikov at the Kronberg Academy. Photo © Lutz Sternstein
Boris Pergamenschikov at the Kronberg Academy. Photo © Lutz Sternstein

'You have to come to Kronberg to really understand the special atmosphere of this place,' says Trenkler, the benevolent director of the Kronberg Academy, and he is right. One can imagine the heart-warming sight of cellos being carried through the cobble-stoned streets by exceptionally talented fresh-faced young students speaking every language under the sun, or the fraternal atmosphere as Kronberg becomes populated with musicians from around the world whose hearts are cello-shaped and who truly believe that each cello is special and unique not just in tone but also in character. Being told about it is fine and well, but it is something else to be there and experience it. Every music-lover, whether he is a cello enthusiast or not, should make the trip to Kronberg at least once in their lifetime. During competition time, the small town in the Taunus mountain range is being dominated not by humans but by different cellos with their own unique characters, which is quite a sight and sound.

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Copyright © 8 September 2004 Tess Crebbin, Kronberg, Germany


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