A classically trained cellist who began studying violin at age two, cello at age four, Albers made her major orchestral debut with the Cleveland Orchestra in 1998, and thereafter has performed in recital and with orchestras in the U.S., Europe, Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand.
Albers won Second Prize in Munich’s Internationalen Musikwettbewerbes der ARD, and was also awarded the Wilhelm-Weichsler-Musikpreis der Stadt Osnabruch. While in Germany, Albers recorded solo and chamber music of Kodaly for the Bavarian Radio, performances that have been heard throughout Europe.
In November, 2003, Albers was named the first Gold Medal Laureate of South Korea’s Gyeongnam International Music Competition, winning the $25,000 Grand Prize.
Miss Albers’ debut album, Julie Albers, Cello, on the Artek label includes works by Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Schumann, Massenet, and Piatagorsky.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: What is it about the cello that so deeply connects with soul, heart, and spirit? Something so primal that vibrates and resonates throughout the body?
Julie Albers: The cello is very close to the human voice in terms of range and timbre, which is what causes the deep human connection. There are very few instruments that have as diverse of a range of color as the cello; so somehow, no matter what voice you are looking for with the instrument, you are able to find it.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: What do you imagine as your play a piece? Do you picture a story? Recall a feeling, an emotional event or relationship? Are you paying all your attention to the mastery of it or is the focus on something that cannot be put into words–requiring almost an exit out of the mind into a different aspect of being and feeling and experiencing?
Julie Albers: I feel that when I’m completely “in the zone” performing, I need to exit the thoughts of the mind and go into a different place of listening, feeling and reacting. This is the state where I feel like I am an instrument for the music to speak through instead of having to “make the music.” There is definitely a process for getting to that place though. First, I feel it is important to find out exactly what I want to say with a certain piece or section of a piece, and this is done through many methods, some technical and some musical, but always focusing on emotion and feeling to create the guide to the story that I would like to tell. I find that in developing a definite vision for each piece, I actually get myself to the point of allowing spontaneity and freedom to come into the music-making process. My goal is to try to find something different in a piece with each playing, never just settling into the original vision as the only way.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: What drives you to play and to create? Free improvisational jazz guitarist, Jaakko Savolainen, who records under the name, alvari lume, [read: Combustus interview with J. Savolainen] once explained it to me as a desire to find answers to questions. Is it that way with you as well? Is music for you first and foremost about exploration?
Julie Albers: I feel that being a musician is very much about exploration; there is also something very liberating about being able to create something that is uniquely your own. Some musicians find this through their own composition and some of us find it through going back to the works of the great masters. Being a musician is having the ability to communicate with anybody on a much deeper level than words are able to reach. I love not having to use words!
Deanna Phoenix Selene: Favorite composer? Musician? Someone you’d like to one day collaborate with?
Julie Albers: Changes on a daily basis. I could confidently say that Brahms is my favorite composer though.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: You began playing at such an incredibly young age. The sheer size of the instrument didn’t intimidate you? I can imagine your first time playing must have been very thrilling for you! Can you recall any of those early days?
Julie Albers: I remember being very excited about playing the cello, because my mom had taken me to many cello recitals and played many recordings all the while talking about what an incredible instrument it was. I had a very small cello to start with. I liked being able to sit down while playing.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: While still in high school, you were awarded the Grand Prize at the XIII International Competition for Young Musicians in Douai, France, and as a result toured France as soloist with Orchestre Symphonique de Douai. What was that like to experience such an honor and success at this remarkably young age? Any moment in particular that stands out for you even now?
Julie Albers: This was a very exciting competition for me because it was the first time I had done any playing outside of the country. It was also one of the first competitions I did that was specifically for cello. There was something very inspiring about being around so many other wonderful cellists around my age who all shared my passion. Unfortunately one of my strongest memories from this time was getting quite sick after the 2nd round of the competition and having a 103 degree fever for the final round. In a way, I think this actually helped me to win because all of the energy I had was being focused on the music and making it through the performance instead of worrying about winning or being nervous. This competition was also run in an incredibly nice way where we all stayed with host families. I lucked out in being placed with a wonderful family with three little girls whom I’m actually still in touch with and just saw in Rome last month.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: You perform on a N.F. Vuillaume cello made in 1872. Any words to describe this?
Julie Albers: In the beginning I wasn’t sure that it was the voice I was looking for in an instrument, but quickly realized that I just needed to learn how to play it. It’s a very healthy instrument, which is nice for traveling because some instruments can be very finicky with temperature and humidity change on a regular basis. This one always sounds close to it’s best! I’ve grown to truly love this cello.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: Advice you would give a young child on how to approach music? Are there ways parents and educators can better connect young people with classical music?
Julie Albers: This is a tricky question because there is so much to being a musician that is not about the actual music. There is an enormous amount of discipline that needs to be there when a child is young that really needs to be enforced by the parent. It’s hard to find the right balance of letting the child do it purely because they feel inspired by it versus knowing that practicing isn’t always fun yet needs to be done regularly regardless. The best advice I could give a young musician is to practice every day. It matters far less how much you practice than how frequently you do so. It’s important to have a regular schedule so that practicing is just a part of the day, not something that happens based on inspiration. By having this discipline early on, you will set yourself up to be able to be a musician because you love it later in life.
For more on Julie Albers, visit her website at: Cellist Julie Albers.com
On Amazon.com: Julie Albers, Cello
Superb January 16, 2010
By B. Hackman
Format:Audio CD|Amazon Verified Purchase
I found this recording after hearing Albers play the Dvorak concerto in concert. Her playing at that performance and on this recording is passionate without being schmaltzy and technically first rate. Her sound is gorgeous. Weiss is her equal at every turn. The recording itself is excellent. I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about recommending this recording or, in fact, hearing either of these fine musicians in performance.