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Meet the young Cello Unwrapped champion

Interview

Fifteen-year-old cellist Willard Carter was Cello Unwrapped’s most devoted audience member. The Purcell School student missed only a handful of dates in the year-long, 47-concert series. Curator Helen Wallace chatted to him about the experience.

What attracted you to Cello Unwrapped?
Well, I’m a cellist! And there were so many great performers in the series, and so many younger cellists early in their careers. I may have heard most of them on recording, but there’s nothing like hearing them live in a chamber hall. For example, I’d heard Gautier Capuçon in recording but he had a much greater presence live, it was so intense. A discovery for me was the Swiss cellist Nadège Rochat, who came to play with guitarist Rafael Aguirre; she was wonderful and someone who I’d never heard of before. I couldn’t get to every thing because I’m a weekly boarder at school, but I tried to do as much as I could.

What were the stand-outs for you?
Narek Hakhnazaryan was jaw-dropping; I really enjoyed his interpretation of the Rachmaninov Sonata, that was stunning. Alban Gerhardt’s late-night performance of Kodály’s solo sonata was also something really special.

Any musical discoveries?
I discovered one new composer, the Armenian Adam Khudoyan. Narek played his First Solo Sonata, which I’ve now played, along with his cello duet, which I gave the UK premiere of a few weeks ago, with Guy Johnston. I also discovered this really fun piece called Moderato by Rostropovich, which Alban Gerhardt kindly sent me; it’s not published, but Alban had a connection with Rostropovich, who gave it to him.

How would describe the diversity of playing styles and approaches?
There was such a difference between the approach of, say, period cellist Christophe Coin, and his fellow frenchman Gautier Capuçon – it was amazing. I also really enjoyed hearing Nicolas Altstaedt playing 18th-century and 20th-century music in one concert, but in completely different styles. I thought he had swapped over the cello, but I understand that he just changed the bow – he made a completely different sound, it’s extraordinary.

What have you learnt?
That there are so many different musical paths to choose from. It really made me think about all the possibilities with the instrument. Every performance I’ve heard has enhanced my musical understanding of pieces I play.

Did you venture outside of the classical programme?
I went to that new work Lost by Hauschka with Nicolas Altstaedt, inspired by Fellini’s last film project. That was really cool. I love film music: my uncle is Peter Morgan, who has been screen-writing The Crown, so I’ve been listening to the music of Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams.

Any turkeys?
There were things I disagreed with, things I wouldn’t have chosen to do, but there was something in every concert that I liked.

Very diplomatic! What’s next for you?
Next spring I’m going to Long Island to give the first performance of a piece written for me by Willard Roosevelt, who I’m named after.

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