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Cello Perspectives: David Cunliffe of The Lincoln Trio

Cellist David Cunliffe with his group The Lincoln Trio

Cellist David Cunliffe with his group The Lincoln Trio

To celebrate Cello Month on WFMT, we’ve invited a number of professional players to consider a set of questions, expecting—and hoping for—a range of answers to widen our perspective on the instrument. Today’s featured cellist is part of Chicago’s Grammy Award-nominated Lincoln Trio. The trio is in residence at the Music Institute of Chicago and at Merit School of Music.

David Cunliffe started playing the cello at nine years of age in his native England. Three years later he received a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music. He went on to study at the Royal Northern College of Music followed by the International Yehudi Menuhin Music Academy in Switzerland. Together with violinist Desirée Ruhstrat and pianist Marta Aznavoorian, he formed The Lincoln Trio in 2003, choosing a name that affirms their home state of Illinois as they perform throughout the world. In 2012 FANFARE magazine declared them “one of the hottest young trios in the business.”

How old were you when you started to play? Why did you choose the cello? What made you decide to become a musician?
I was nine when I started to play. I had a crush on a girl violinist who lived down the street, so my mom thought it would be a good idea for me to play cello so I could be in a piano trio with her and her brother.
 
Can you name a piece or two of core repertoire that requires extra prep time? What specifically makes it challenging for players?
As I spend most of my time playing piano trios, Beethoven’s Triple concerto always keeps me in the practice room longer than anything else. I always notice the evil glee in my trio mates faces when we start rehearsing that piece.
 
Do you have a maintenance schedule for the cello? What has to be done to keep it in top working order? Is the instrument sensitive to conditions and how do you adjust?
I have a Walmart cello that I buy Neiman Marcus accessories for
 
What’s your favorite cello recording? Why?
There are really too many to mention but this week I’m enjoying performances by Fournier and Tortelier.
 
If you could go back in time to advise composers about the cello, who would you talk to, and what would you suggest?
I would try to twist Brahms’s arm to write a cello concerto (I would also mention it to Mozart and Beethoven) I have serious violin concerto envy.
 
Do you find playing the cello gets easier, and that you can practice less? Is there a piece of music you play that helps you keep up your technique?
No, I wish….   Popper & Piatti

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