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In Conversation with Mats Lidstrom

By Saskia Constantinou

One is immediately aware meeting Swedish concert cellist Mats Lidström that he is a man of great depth with many layers and dimensions as musician, composer-arranger and professor at the Royal Academy of Music.

Tall and fair with engaging blue eyes, Lidström is involved in a variety of projects, which include not only performing, but arranging, composing and writing books from children’s stories to methodologies on cello technique. Where does he find the time and inspiration? “I think I’m very organised and disciplined, so can achieve a lot during the working day. Sometimes, though, I do wish there were more hours,” says Mats. “Inspiration, well, from a variety of things which move me in some way – for example the tragedy of Princess Diana led to the composition The Sea of Flowers is Rising Higher, the death of Matthew Crawley in the television Downton Abbey… it could be anything. My great love of the series of comics created by the Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, who wrote under the pen name of Herge, has also proven to be one of my inspirations. I started reading them when I was ten and have been a fan ever since. I always have them handy and collect them in different languages, even Latin! That motivated my Tintin Suite.”

Although the idea had formulated over several years, it wasn’t until he was forced to stop playing for 12 weeks that Mats found time to bring his ideas to the fore and pen them. “It was summer, I was composing, texting and practising the cello, and suddenly my thumb collapsed, so I was forced to stop playing. I tried to use the time productively, and it was then, that I wrote the Suite Tintin: nine scenes from the Tintin Adventures for cello and piano. I was fortunate to receive the go ahead from the Herge Foundation in Brussels and the piece was published.”

Mats’ ambition was to not only move Tintin onstage and into recital halls, but to write music for an audience of all ages. His compositions and transcriptions are just another dimension of this rounded artist and musician. “I have no desire to make composing my profession,” he says with a contemplative look which broadens into a smile. His numerous transcriptions include music by Kreisler, Scriabin, Gershwin, Cole Porter, Stravinsky and even themes from the operatic repertoire such as his Rigoletto Fantasy. “I do admit though to being excited about the format of the concerts in Cyprus and being able to introduce the works I’ve selected. It creates a certain intimacy, friendliness and hopefully creates a rapport between performer and audience.”

Bach’s music usually features in Mats’ recitals and he’s written a series If Bach was a cellist. “I live the fantasy that everything Bach wrote was intended for the cello. It also serves as a way for me to get close to him through works other than the six solo suites and three gamba sonatas.”
In conversation with Mats, it’s easy to understand the high regard in which he is held by those who work with him. From Andre Previn, to Lynn Harrell, compliments are always forthcoming – and as pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy says “Mats is a superb cellist and an unusual, captivating musician.”

Apollon October Concerts
Live performance by cellist Mats Lidstrom. October 29. Casteliotissa Hall, Nicosia. 8pm. €10. Tel: 99-722031
October 30. Hadjiantonas Winery, Parekklisia, Limassol. 8pm. €20. Tel: 99-722031


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