Who or what inspired you to take up the cello, and pursue a career in music?
I grew up in a tiny kibbutz in Israel and in 4th grade we were all “forced” to take up a musical instrument. As a basketball player this was the last thing on my mind…
Luckily there was a girl who played cello and was four years older than me. I had a crush on her and thought, “The only way for me to get close to her is to play her instrument and then we will get married!” Of course, none of that happened besides the fact that I ended up being a cellist!
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
It is very hard to pinpoint one influence. On every step of the way there was something that ignited my excitement and love for music and for the cello. At first it was a girl; then it was a cassette tape of music played by Pablo Casals, which my parents bought for me; then it was playing solo with an orchestra for the first time; being introduced to chamber music; and finally mentors such as Isaac Stern, Aldo Parisot, Bernard Greenhouse, Lawrence Lesser, and Boris Pergamenschikow, who all greatly inspired me to pursue music as sort of a religion.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
The greatest challenge has been to balance the three elements that are important in my life: my family, my performances, and my students. I call it the triangle of my life.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
Again, it is hard to pinpoint one out of so many years of producing recordings and performing. However, I can emotionally relate to three of them in particular: my debut CD The Jewish Soul, performing the Penderecki Cello Concerto with the Warsaw Philharmonic celebrating the Maestro’s 85th birthday in Warsaw last month, and recording the Bach Suites on the Pablo Casals’ cello, the first recording of these masterpieces on this instrument since the legendary Pablo Casals recorded his version in 1936.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
I try to play best whatever is in front of me at that moment. Performers are like actors in the theatre. We have to fully love and be engaged with the text that we are presenting to the public at any given moment. Therefore, every piece that we perform should feel like it is the most amazing composition ever written and it is the last time that we will ever perform it!
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I try to combine pieces that I have performed many times with new pieces. It is similar to cutting a salad that you love and trying to add veggies that you haven’t added before. You never want to add too many new ones and neglect the ones that you know that you like the most. On the other hand, new tastes and smells can always make you interested and excited and look forward to the next meal.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Yes, a few: Konzerthaus in Berlin, Wigmore Hall in London, Carnegie Hall in New York, Salle Gaveau in Paris, and the national auditorium in Taiwan. However, the most nerve-wracking and emotionally fulfilling hall to play in is the music school back home in the Kibbutz in front of the people that have known me since day one!
Who are your favourite musicians?
There are many! But if I have to find a common ground: they are all dead and represent the golden age of classical music performers in the first half of the 20th century. One of the main reasons I like them is the fact that they searched deeper than our generation for what the composer wanted us to hear and not what will look better.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Playing a Jewish melody in front of 20,000 marching young people in Birkenau concentration camp as part of the 30th anniversary on the “March of the Living”.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Definition of success is when you feel a special energy and connection to the public, energy that can relate simply to silence and no breathing. Those are for me the magical moments that are worth the hard work.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Learning the technique of how to make a phrase alive. Something I was introduced to by Bernard Greenhouse who was a student of Pablo Casals.
Amit Peled’s new recording of J S Bach’s Cello Suites, played on Pablo Casals’ cello, is released on 1 February 2019. Further information
Israeli cellist Amit Peled, a musician of profound artistry and charismatic stage presence, is acclaimed worldwide as one of the most exciting and virtuosic instrumentalists on the concert stage today. At 6’5″ tall, Peled started life as a basketball player and was called “larger than life” and “Jacqueline du Pré in a farmer’s body” when he enveloped his cello. Peled strives to break down the barriers of the concert hall, about which The Baltimore Sun wrote, “His amiable and inviting personality is exactly the type everyone says we’ll need more of if classical music is to survive.” Peled performs on the Pablo Casals 1733 Goffriller cello, which was loaned to him personally by Casals’ widow Marta Casals Istomin.