What is your role in the orchestra and when did you join?
I’m a cellist and I joined in 1986.
Where are you from originally from and where did you go to school?
I am from Barcelona, Spain, and went to school at the Barcelona Conservatory. On the side, I took courses in philosophy because I was practicing cello everyday. (I needed some sort of education outside of music). Then I studied in Paris where I got my Undergraduate degree. I went to Paris because my cello teacher moved from Barcelona to there and I just followed him. After Paris, I got my Masters Degree in Boston at Boston University. And finally I studied with Bernard Greenhouse at SUNY Stony brook and then I studied some at Peabody as well.
What has been your most memorable experience since being in the orchestra?
There are a few. One that I will always remember to was Tosca with Placido Domingo singing in 1988. That was before he came to WNO as Artistic Director. It was beautiful because during one of his big arias we (celli) double him and he would just bring this incredible tone with him. I have never forgotten it, and I actually remember playing and you could hear his voice from the top of the stage. That was fantastic. That’s also when I first met Placido. Years before I was in the orchestra, I met his wife in Barcelona and they came to a school where I was teaching and I said, “You know, I’m leaving for the states soon, so I cannot teach your son.” So when Placido came to sing with WNO he says, “You know there is someone here who almost taught my son.” So that’s how I met him here in DC.
Another huge memory is Rosenkavalier with former music director Heinze Fricke conducting. I think it has been one of the best productions I have been involved in with the WNO. It was memorable because Fricke knew and loved Strauss’ music and there was a particularly good chemistry between him, the cast, and the orchestra. Everybody was listening closely and it was a very good atmosphere. Other favorite memories would be Tristan with Fricke, Parsifal with Placido singing, and the Ring Cycle in 2016. The Ring was just a phenomenal experience.
What is your favorite aspect of the job?
Making music. When I talk to friends of mine that are not musicians, I always tell them, you know, the musicians can have discussions in the lounge but once we get into the pit, suddenly, there is silence and we just perform together. So it is very satisfying to make music with my colleagues and to perform for the people that come to watch. It’s a fantastic way of living-it’s very therapeutic. An example of this is when I was teaching in Baltimore one day. I had a very long day and I was driving in terrible traffic and I finally made it to the performance. I was so tired! We were playing Magic Flute or Cosi, I can’t remember exactly which one, but I remember after the performance, I was less tired than the beginning because I was just relaxed - my mind was not exhausted from driving, and teaching.
Tell us about your friendship with Chef Jose Andres.
Jose and I go back 25 years. We met here in DC when we both played soccer on the same team at the Spanish Embassy. We would watch Barcelona soccer games together and that’s how our friendship started. Then when Jose became extremely successful and important, we still managed to keep the friendship. Fast forward to when we were rehearsing The Ring, a bunch of brass players and I went to one of Jose’s restaurants and I called the manager to prepare a menu for all of us. When Jose found out and said, “Why didn’t you call me and let me know you were doing this?” We went to the restaurant after one of our Rheingold performances, so it was around 9:30pm that we were planning to eat. I told Jose that I didn’t want to bother him since he probably wanted to go home to his wife and kids. He was adamant that we needed to do the dinner again, but at his home. He said he would cook and the musicians could play some music at the dinner. I insisted that we bring the wine. There were about 20 of us that went to his house and he cooked paella outside over a big fire. Some of the low brass played the fire music from The Ring next to the fire, and some horn players and a string trio played some music. I would have never asked him to do this, but it was all his idea. He was the one that insisted because he loves having people over and to cook for people.
Tell us about the World Bank concert you were just a part of.
This was a concert at the World Bank for refugees and internally displaced people. It included artists from countries that have refugees and countries that take refuges which included Syria, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Myanmar, West Africa, Guinea and Norway. We did a concert for a World Bank meeting that was a flash mob, followed by a more traditional performance for the president of the bank, the foreign minister of France and the Mayor of Baghdad. The performance started with just two cellos (Danielle Cho and I) in the center of the stage. The lights were turned off and we played for about 6 bars when a Syrian singer joined us and came walking from the back of the stage while singing. When she got to the front, she left and we had a percussionist come from backstage, followed by two violins from the audience, and then two more from the other side of the audience. We played a piece by the Norwegian pianist and composer, Jon Balke, because Norway has been very active with taking Syrians. After that we did two songs with rappers from Africa that were incredible. The president of the bank said the concert was a great thing to do because it changes the tone of the meeting. Because people have heard something, their soul is a little more open to the issues at hand. Then that Monday we organized a one-hour concert at the bank using some of the same refugee musicians. There was a Lebanese jazz trio, a Lebanese jazz pianist from NY, and we played with the African rappers again, who just brought the house down. They were unbelievable!
What do you like to do in your spare time? Do you have any interested or hobbies outside of music?
I like to read, visit art galleries, play soccer, cook, be with friends and travel. All the normal things.