Rave reviews and invitations to perform at the world’s leading concert halls have propelled 25-year-old Kian Soltani from rising star to one of the most exciting musicians of this generation. Now his time has come to perform alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, as he heads to Kingston’s Rose Theatre on Saturday 3rd Feb and the Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone on Sunday 4th. Find out why Elgar's Cello Concerto is so special to him and his tips for any nervous classical music newbies.
What are you looking forward to most about your debut performance with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra?
To finally be able to play with such a renowned orchestra that I have heard so much about and I have heard perform is really a dream come true. I am also looking forward to performing the Elgar Cello Concerto, which is one of my favourite pieces in the world.
Have you ever performed in Folkestone or Kingston before?
I have never performed in these place, no, and that is also something I am looking forward to, to discover these new places, these new halls, and to travel a bit through England.
What is so special about Elgar’s Cello Concerto?
Well it’s really a masterpiece, one cannot deny that in any way. It has a really beautiful round arc throughout the whole piece. The cello opens with the famous motif which then disappears for the entire first movement and does not fully reappear in its original form again until the very last bars of the Concerto. This arc is almost like a symbol for destiny in a way, with the opening motif being destiny knocking at the door and it is only at the end that we truly understand what it means. It’s also a really incredible piece as it was written shortly after the First World War and you can hear how moved and saddened by the events of the War Elgar was and this shines through the music.
Do you enjoy playing this concerto?
Of course I enjoy playing it, it’s truly fantastic. It’s so well written in terms of orchestration and balance, the cello is almost never in danger of being covered by the entire orchestra, which might be the case with other concertos. When the cello plays, the orchestra accompanies quite thinly which allows me to relax and have more freedom with my playing and make the most of the many different sides to the Concerto, including the virtuosic second movement and song-like elements.
Who inspired you to play the cello?
I started playing the cello aged four as my mum chose the instrument for me. My older cousin was already a cellist and he was always a role model in life and like a brother to me, so that really inspired me to keep at it. Then later, there were many inspirations in my life like Steven Isserlis, Rostropovich of course, Yo-Yo Ma, Giovanni Sollima who inspired me to dig deeper and of course my professor for 11 years, Ivan Monighetti.
What do you listen to in your spare time?
I really love jazz, if I wasn’t a classical musician I would love to be a jazz musician. It is possible to be both and I regret a bit that I did not devote more time to learning jazz. I also love film music, arranging, playing and listening to it. Also funk, hip hop, certain pop music like Michael Jackson, folk music, Persian music... I like any music that is good. I just don’t like bad music, it’s very simple!
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
Stay open and listen to a lot of music, not just classical. As a classical musician you will be surrounded by classical music all the time, so try to step out of your comfort zone and try music that is unfamiliar to you. Discover and experiment with new things and widen your horizon as much as possible.
If someone is nervous or hesitant about attending a concert of classical music, why do you think they would enjoy this concert?
In this case the piece that I am playing is so fantastically beautiful, that I have no doubt that someone who has never heard classical music before would fall in love with it. It actually has elements of film music to it in a way. When I go to concerts a film starts playing in my mind and I have all these images and stories that appear as I’m listening to the music. I would encourage people to come to the concert and experience their own story and let their imagination fly away and see what kind of images come to them. Everyone will have different experiences as this is a piece that really captures the imagination.
Here's a preview of Kian Soltani performing Elgar Cello Concerto...