German cello master Daniel Müller-Schott says his favorite way to explore a city is in jogging shoes. And he couldn’t ask for better running weather when he returns to the Valley to perform Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme with the Phoenix Symphony.
The concerts Friday and Saturday, March 28-29, will reunite Müller-Schott with maestro Michael Christie, the symphony’s former music director. The two collaborated on Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante in 2010.
Müller-Schott spoke from his hometown of Munich.
Question: How did you choose your instrument?
Answer: My mother is a harpsichord player and a piano player, and she took my brother and me to orchestra rehearsals, so I got to know different instruments at a very young age. I was at a rehearsal of the Schumann Cello Concerto when I was 5 years old, and I fell in love with the sound of the cello. That was when I asked my mother to get cello lessons. Later I found out that it was actually Yo-Yo Ma playing.
Q: You couldn’t ask for a better role model.
A: I told him the story of how I came to start playing the cello, and he was actually very moved and incredibly warm to me and invited me immediately to try his cello. And I just now met him again in Munich, where after more than 30 years he played Schumann again with the orchestra of my hometown. So he became a very good friend and very inspiring over the years.
Q: Stradivarius violins get all the press, but you also play a classic Italian instrument. Tell us about the “Ex-Shapiro” cello.
A: Actually I have two instruments. I have an old instrument, which is made by Matteo Goffriller. He was a Venetian maker, and this instrument was made in 1727 in Venice. It’s a beautiful old cello that has a lot of warmth but also a lot of clarity in the sound, which I enjoy. And it has very strong projection, which is needed for bigger concert halls. And then I have a modern cello that is almost a copy of my old one, by a Munich maker. His name is Dietmar Rexhausen.
Q: What’s the difference between old and new?
A: These days the violin makers are getting closer and closer to that secret of the old instruments. But the only thing that cannot be somehow put inside an instrument is the age factor. An old instrument has been played by so many different musicians, and they have put all their emotions into it, and that is something that can’t (be) artificially re-created. So with a modern instrument you have to put your own stamp on it, your own personality, where an old instrument gives you a certain character, and you either like it and it can be combined with your personality or you just don’t match.
Q: This is your second time performing in Phoenix. What were your impressions of Symphony Hall?
A: I tremendously enjoyed playing in the hall. It’s actually a wonderfully spacious acoustic, very bright-sounding, but also a warm orchestra sound, especially for the strings.
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Phoenix Symphony: Tchaikovsky’s ‘Variations on a Rococo Theme’
When: With guest soloist Daniel Müller-Schott, cello. Music director laureate Michael Christie conducts a program that includes a world premiere commissioned from Matthew Hindson as well as Ottorino Respighi’s “Roman Festivals.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 28-29.
Where: Symphony Hall, 75 N. Second St., Phoenix.
Details: 602-495-1999, phoenixsymphony.org