Winning a Classical Brit last year has done no harm to the career of the 28-year-old cellist Natalie Clein (below), though it was already going rather well. The award was for her EMI recording of Brahms and Schubert, and she's doing another recording soon: "I feel very lucky that they're standing by me," says Clein, "in this difficult industrial climate".
Her first bid for fame came when she entered the BBC Young Musician of the Year contest at 14: "I was always competitive, and I wanted to be part of it." She didn't win, but Tasmin Little, who was one of the jurors, assured her that if she really worked, she'd win it next time round, which is exactly what happened. One immediate result was that she was pursued by agents and record companies, all of whom - without asking anyone's advice - she turned down. "I said, if they don't take me in five years' time, then they're not wanting me for the right reason now."
Clein is a born cellist: "I love the bass qualities of the instrument, as well as its melodic and lyrical ones. When I play in a quartet, I'm in charge of the sonority of the group." On Saturday, at the Wigmore Hall, she'll be joining the Leopold String Trio to play Anton Arensky's String Quartet No 2: "It's a beautiful piece, coming from deep in the Russian soul. And to have two cellos, as we will on this occasion, creates a unique sonority. The ground will really tremble!"
Her take on concerts is refreshingly unconventional: "Rather than doing the usual recitals, I like to have a scheme underlying the pieces I play." Recently, she's been working with her actress sister to present Schumann's letters and his diaries; last year, she did a project with the writer Jeanette Winterson and actress Fiona Shaw, in which her trio played the Goldberg Variations while Shaw read Winterson's commentary.
Clein now wants to do something to bring Arensky into focus: "He's as good as Tchaikovsky and Dvorak. I'll have to devise a programme."
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