<< -- 3 -- Tess Crebbin ONE YEAR ON
TC: Do you think he considered himself to be more German or more Russian?
LV: He had lived in Germany for such a long time, since 1977, that I believe he really considered himself a true German citizen. He spoke better German than many Germans, by which I mean literary, sophisticated German. But he never lost his Russian accent and it really got to him when he would meet people on the street or inside a supermarket who would start talking to him very slowly as though he otherwise wouldn't understand them. He always made a point of answering them back in very philosophical, complicated German.
TKV: I think he was proud of being a German citizen, but I also think he never really lost the Russian inside him. You can take the man out of Russia, but you cannot take Russia out of the man. I know for a fact that he had shelves upon shelves of Russian books, and he and his wife often watched Russian black and white movies together as well. It has to do with your roots, with your homeland, even if you leave your homeland and are glad of it for the political situation that is unbearable there. But the food, the culture, the literature ... all of that stays within you. So I think he considered himself neither fully Russian nor fully German, but more as a cosmopolitan.
TC: What were his hobbies, when he did not play or study music? It is common knowledge that he spent a lot of his spare time reading, but what did you do together, for instance, when you had occasion to visit one another?
LV: I would take out my old clarinet, for instance, because I used to play the clarinet before I became a pianist, and he would sit down at the piano. Then we would play something together, whatever came to mind. He also got into some of the German comedy shows. We had a show here that was a bit like the Saturday Night show in the US. So one day when he visited us it happened to be Saturday and I turned on the TV and we watched it together. After this, he often watched the show at home and when his wife asked him one day: 'Why are you watching this?', he replied: 'well, Larsnik watches it, too!'
TC: There was quite a large age gap between you two. You were born in 1970, and he was born in 1948. Was it more of a father-son relationship, then?
LV: That was maybe how it started, but he took away that age gap between us so effortlessly that after a while it did not even matter that he was much older. I remember when I first went to his house I was really awestruck and filled with respect, like: wow, I am going to play for this guy. But then we started talking and it turned out that he was not aloof at all, just a very nice person who knew how to play the cello well. He was really my first duo partner, so there were all these pieces I had never played but he had played them a zillion times. Still, he didn't turn this into a teaching lesson as though he knew it all and I had to do what he wanted. Instead, he made me feel important by asking things like: 'I am really curious what you think about this passage or that, how you feel it should be played.'
TKV: He gave young people the feeling that they were absolute partners on an even level with him, and he did not talk down to them. I thought that was a very important aspect of his approach to music, and also to life. He was never acting like the aloof professor with his students.
LV: Although he was a wonderful professor and he had an authority about him that could not be denied.
Copyright © 30 April 2005
Tess Crebbin, Germany