How We Met: Ron Arad & Steven Isserlis

Ron Arad, 59

An Israeli architect and industrial designer, Arad was catapulted to design stardom with his Rover Chair in the early 1980s. He has since collaborated with a number of iconic furniture companies, including Vitra. He lives with his wife in London

I met Steven through Pauline, his late wife. He was a young musical prodigy and initially we did lots of competitive wisecracking, but over time the relationship evolved into something else, and the conversations deepened.

We were part of a group living in north London, all outsiders to a degree, so we were like family. There were Sunday lunches at each other's homes, dinners out and lots of [parlour] games. And we all went to Steve's concerts. He's a fantastic cellist, and it's amazing to watch him play. He adds another layer to a piece he's playing with a delivery that's special to him – he's just so expressive. And then of course there's his long hair.

We've only ever collaborated twice. Eight years ago he asked me to do a record cover for him, using an image of Camden's Roundhouse arts venue, and now it feels appropriate that our next collaboration is here. It's a series of performances and 360-degree images, made by people I've invited to create work for it, projected on to a 20-metre curtain made of silicon rods. I thought it would be fantastic to have Steve performing in the middle of it.

Steven's social skills are rather good, but everything he knows is limited to his world of interest: literature and of course his music. So many things that are common knowledge to everyone else, he is completely unaware of. I think my area of visual arts has not penetrated his attention at all.

Pauline's illness [she died last year following a long battle with cancer] was a time of great bonding for us. She became ill a few years ago, then she started doing a lot better, but then there was a relapse, and it was hell. I dealt with it by being there with them as much as I could, alongside Alma, my wife, and several others in our group.

It was important for Pauline that Steven went on performing, that he didn't miss concerts, so we all did everything we could to help him do that. A few weeks ago a four-hour memorial concert was held at the Wigmore Hall, and Steven played in it. There were lots of our friends group in the audience. His performance was fantastic and I felt incredibly emotional. He's been through a lot. But he is strong.

Steven Isserlis, 52



One of Britain’s best known cellists, Isserlis travels throughout the world performing with the likes of the Berlin Philharmonic and the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées, as well as giving solo and chamber concerts. He lives in north London.

Ron was very cross with me when we first met, about 30 years ago. He was part of this tight group of friends living around Belsize Park who were like family to my late wife, Pauline. Ron's brother was going to a festival that I was also attending, and Ron had given Pauline a package for me to pass on to him, but I lost it – I've still no idea what happened to it. When we met at a party a few days later, he wasn't pleased with me at all.

It took me some time to fit into the group, and get to know Ron, but after a while we all became very close. We would celebrate birthdays together and gather around each other in moments of crisis.

Over the years, he's tried to teach me a bit about design, as I'm a complete heathen. The first thing I thought about the Rover Chair was that he's great at taking very simple ideas and making something brilliant out of them, which appeals to me because in music, I'm always going after simplicity. And he's a very witty designer.

He gets on well with my son, Gabriel, who I took round to his for brunch recently. We both enjoy hanging out there; it's an amazing space with lots of exciting objects. Gabriel loves his designs, and at one stage he wanted to be a designer, because of Ronnie.

On the surface Ron may seem brusque – he's not the sort of person to say thanks, he likes to wink his approval instead – but with Pauline, particularly in her final year, I saw how kind he and his wife are; they were there for us. I suppose going through things like that brings you very close.

When Ron asked me to take part in his new Roundhouse project, Curtain Call, I thought: "I don't think Bach needs visuals." I don't normally do anything outside normal music recitals, but I know that Ronnie won't make it look ridiculous. He has taste, intelligence and an understanding of how to make it complementary to the music, but most exciting is how he's got my son involved. It will be Gabriel who will be controlling the film projection when I'm playing, which will be very interesting.

Ron Arad’s Curtain Call' is part of Bloomberg Summer at the Roundhouse, London NW1 (roundhouse.org.uk), until 29 August

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible