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Lars Vogt talks to TESS CREBBIN
about his late friend and partner,
the cellist Boris Pergamenschikow


The renowned cellist Boris Pergamenschikow died on 30 April 2004 in Berlin where he lived and taught for the last years of his life. One year after his death there is still much to be discovered about his life and also his musical legacy. One of Pergamenschikow's closest friendships was with the celebrated German pianist Lars Vogt, the director and founder of the Heimbach music festival, with whom Pergamenschikow recorded a number of successful CDs on EMI (due for review here at M&V shortly), one of which won the 2004 Echo Classical Award for Best Chamber Music Recording. To find out more about the extraordinary friendship and also musical partnership of the two men, we had a chat with Vogt and his Russian-born wife, the composer Tanya Komarova-Vogt on the occasion of the first anniversary of Pergamenschikow's death.

Tess Crebbin: What are some of the last memories you have of your friend Boris Pergamenschikow?

Lars Vogt: When we went to visit him in hospital. There were always people coming to visit him, because he had many friends. Shortly before he died, he couldn't speak very well any more, but he made an effort to smile and he said: 'It is so nice that all these people are here, together, it's just the price for this is a little too high.'

Tanya Komarova-Vogt: I actually remember that we went and took some Russian food to him in hospital, and we sat down with him and ate with him. It was some dumpling dish, and despite the seriousness of the situation, we had a very warm and joyful time that day. I also remember that despite his illness, he radiated an enormous sense of peace and serenity. We were eating and drinking, and it was all very nice and intimate.

TC: Lars, as organizer of the Heimbach Music Festival, you actually had Pergamenschikow booked to perform for 2004.

LV: That is true, and just to tell you how much of a fighter he was: he did not cancel his appearance there until just two weeks before he died. Until then, he was always working out ways how he could manage to still appear there, despite of his illness. Until the last moment he clung to that hope that he would play again, so I had not even thought about a replacement for him until he cancelled of his own accord.

TC: Nowadays, when one thinks Pergamenschikow one automatically also thinks of you. The musical partnership between you was so very famous and also very fruitful: one need only think of the performances you did together, or of the very successful EMI series of chamber music that you recorded together. How did you two first get to meet each other?

LV: I got to know him in 1988. I was still at school then and my girlfriend at the time was a Russian cellist who wanted to come to Germany and study here. I knew nothing about the cello or cello teachers, but as luck had it Boris, who was still teaching in Cologne at that time, came to my home town for a concert. I was playing in a piano trio then and so I went to the concert and it just so happened that I ended up turning the pages for Pavel Gililov who, of course, played with Boris. So afterwards I asked if my girlfriend could play for him and Boris basically agreed, saying that I should call him. After a few months, I did call him and asked if my girlfriend and I could visit him and play for him.

TC: And he still remembered this, years later, didn't he?

LV: It was funny because just a few years ago we spoke about this, and he remembered the situation precisely. He had such a unique memory for detail, it was amazing. So he said to me: 'I remember that phone call of yours precisely and I also remember exactly what I was thinking.' So I asked him: 'What did you think?' He replied: 'I was thinking: gee, why don't they all leave me in peace?' But anyway, we went and played for him and he quite liked it -- for one year, my former girlfriend became his student. Actually, I felt quite guilty about it.

TC: Why guilty?

A great friendship: Lars Vogt (right) and Boris Pergamenschikow. Photo © Tanya Pergamenschikow
A great friendship: Lars Vogt (right) and Boris Pergamenschikow. Photo © Tanya Pergamenschikow

LV: We broke up and so there wasn't much I could do anymore. It was like I had brought her to him and then sort of left her with him to deal with, while I took myself out of the picture. She actually ended up staying with him for a while -- he and his wife Tanya were always very generous in opening their home to Boris's students.

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Copyright © 30 April 2005 Tess Crebbin, Germany


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