Cellist Daniel Kaler will perform the Haydn Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major with the New Mexico Philharmonic on Sunday, Feb. 26.
Kaler is recognized by many as a rising star of his generation and the Journal conducted an email interview with the cellist from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
JOURNAL: Tell me about your background as a musician. Were your parents musical?
KALER: I grew up in a musical family, with both my parents being violinists who perform and teach actively (they currently teach at the Cleveland Institute of Music). My younger brother played for a time as well. I mostly grew up in the Chicago musical scene and participated in youth programs such as the Music Institute of Chicago and Midwest Young Artists, both being very fulfilling experiences where I became more well-rounded as a musician playing in all kinds of ensembles and contexts. My first teachers were Donna Davis, who I studied with in the summers from the time I was 4, and Gilda Barston when I was in Chicago. Around when I was 11 and until I went to college, I began to study privately with Hans Jensen, a professor at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music.
After graduating early from high school, I continued my studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music with Mark Kosower, the principal cellist of The Cleveland Orchestra, and later with Brinton Smith, the principal cellist of the Houston Symphony, at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. The schools both had a strong focus around chamber music, music theory, and orchestra, helping me build a solid foundation for a career in an orchestra and to be as universal a musician as I could be. I am very fortunate to now be in my first season as a member of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and am grateful to have such supportive and wonderful colleagues to make music with.
JOURNAL: When did you first pick up the cello?
KALER: When I was 4 years old.
JOURNAL: When/how/why did you fall in love with it?
KALER: Initially, I started on the violin when I was 3 years old, but I heard the recording of Jacqueline du Pré playing the Elgar Concerto with Daniel Barenboim and was hooked on the sound of the cello ever since. I was not too keen to play on the E-string either, so that too motivated me to switch at the time. The humanness of the sound was what drew me in the most.
JOURNAL: Any particular influences?
KALER: Jacqueline du Pré for a time, and there are too many to note, but I love many of the cellists and violinists from the mid-to-late part of the 20th century. It’s a very special sound and (an) intentional way of making music that I try to think about when I play. I’m also very inspired by my parents and my teachers – their ways of playing are ones I am quite close with and have thought about growing up and during my studies.
JOURNAL: Tell me about the Haydn Cello Concerto.
KALER: Haydn’s C Major Concerto is interesting in that it sits at the crossroads of Baroque and Classical formal and concerto aesthetics, having been written a little over a decade into the classical era. Thus, the orchestration is overall very light and transparent, allowing for the soloist to project without too much effort. Therein also lies the challenge of a concerto like Haydn’s – to keep it sounding simple and transparent even with the technical challenges it presents.
JOURNAL: Have you played in New Mexico before?
KALER: First time! Looking forward to playing with the Philharmonic!