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While on the subject of Julian Steckel, who was a student of Pergamenschikow until the very end: he won the hearts of the audience with his skilful, polished play that was oozing sensitivity to music and instrument with every note. He has magical hands that create superb musicianship and he seems to have everything in place: technical skill, sensitivity, charisma and intuition. It is hard to believe that all this is coming from someone who is only 22 years of age, for the sumptuous sound he produces is downright magisterial. The young man achieved the impossible even by making his way to Kronberg, much less by succeeding in coming a very close second and taking home the 10,000 euro cash award. Unlike the other contestants, who were all under the guidance of their teachers, Steckel has been alone since April of this year. 'I have been without a permanent teacher since Boris Pergamenschikow died,' Steckel said. 'So it was a big decision for me to even come to the competition. Emotionally, of course, it was very tough because Boris was like family to me and he was always in my thoughts when I played. This competition was something we had prepared for together. After much soul-searching, I decided that I was going to do it for him but, naturally, I have been very aware of his absence throughout, which made me very sad. For him, I wanted to give my very best and I hope he would have been proud of me. Musically, it was tough, too, because I only had a few people, here or there, to give me the odd lesson. I chose not to look for another teacher straight away and so I did a lot of the preparation on my own since April.'

Not surprisingly, the courageous determination of Steckel touched the public and caused the majority to root for him, since the young cellist's personal integrity is matched by enormous potential that promises musical excellence of the finest. Heard after the concert, from audience members, were remarks like 'There are miles of distance between him and the others. You can't even compare it', or 'It is really true what they say, Pergamenschikow only took on the very best.'

For Steckel, this almost did not come to be. 'I knew I wanted to be taught by Boris and nobody else, but when I first went to play for him I was so nervous that I did not sound my very best. So he said to me what they usually say when they want to get rid of you: I have a long waiting list, no space right now, etc. I went home, thought: this can't be it! I must do something to change his mind. I sent him a demo CD and wrote a letter saying that I'd been really nervous and that I wanted nothing more than to study with him, would he please give me a second chance and listen to this CD. He called me a few days later and invited me to move to Berlin and become his student.'

Julian Steckel. Photo © 2004 Anja Ullrich
Julian Steckel. Photo © 2004 Anja Ullrich

The rest is history because, like all of Pergamenschikow's permanent students, Steckel now has a bit of the master's playing in him, and is set for a good and steep career. He is currently already touring on his own, while another Pergamenschikow student, Danjulo Ishizaka, has just completed his very first recording: with Sony! And Claudio Bohorquez needs no introduction any more -- having won the last PCCC, he is well on his way to an international career.

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Copyright © 11 September 2004 Tess Crebbin, Kronberg, Germany

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