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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living