Artist Interview: Efe Baltacigil, cello

By Erik Petersons on April 8, 2013

Cellist Efe Baltacigil maintains strong holds in both the orchestral and chamber music worlds.  With a post as the Principal Cellist of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Efe has also appeared on Richard Goode’s Persepctives series, participated in Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project and has toured with the Musicians from Marlboro.  His program of complete Beethoven Cello Sonatas grew from his close friendship with pianist Benjamin Hochman–an artistic relationship that grew out of their time at the Curtis Institute of Music.  In preparation for his recital in May, we caught up with Efe to talk about his program and the development of his career.

Erik Petersons: You will be performing an all-Beethoven recital with PCMS in May.  Describe how this program came about and your interest in performing all five sonatas on one program.

Efe Baltacigil: Benjy and I performed this very program twice before, the first time in Istanbul, Turkey and again last year in NY. It is my personal Mount Everest. It is one of the best ways to get into Beethoven's inner world for a cellist, other than of course playing all nine symphonies in a short period.

EP: Tell me about your relationship with pianist Benjamin Hochman and what it is like to work together.  Where did your artistic collaborations have their beginning?

EB: I had the pleasure of meeting Benjy at Curtis soon after I started studying there in 2000 and fondly remember performing Brahms F Major Sonata with him at the good old Curtis hall in 2001. Since then we performed often in recitals and chamber music including a recital in Amsterdam's famous Musikverien.

EP: You have held orchestral positions for many years now as well appearing in both chamber and solo performances.  With such diverse settings and repertoire, how do you adjust your performance for a more intimate recital like this one?

EB: I find it very nice to have a balance between solo, chamber and orchestral playing. As Mr. Silverstein put it so eloquently, "one must perform always as if playing a solo recital," giving attention to detail and delivering the message from the composer to the listener in the best way we can. I am trying to be the best musician I can be rather than a soloist or orchestral player.

EP: You spent many years in Philadelphia between your time at Curtis and your position with the Philadelphia Orchestra.  What are some of your memories of Philadelphia, and what is it like for you to return here?

EB: Philadelphia has been very generous to me for over twelve years. Going to finest music school, then joining to the finest Symphony orchestra down the street, was a special experience. I have great friends and fantastic memories. And of course I sometime miss all this, but as an artist one has to try to improve and learning new things like being principal cellist in the Seattle Symphony offers me a lot. I have already recorded my first CD with them and my solo debut last season was very exciting. Next year I'll be performing the famous Dvorak Cello concerto, which is very much a highlight.

EP: We certainly miss seeing you around town and hearing you with the orchestra.  How are things going in Seattle?

EB: I am very much looking forward to playing all five Beethoven's Piano and Cello sonatas in one concert to the always warm and welcoming Philadelphia audience. And I would like to dedicate this concert to the memory of the man who hired me at the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2002, dear Maestro Wolfgang Sawallish.

Efe Baltacigil appears with pianist Benjamin Hochman on Thursday, May 2nd at 8 PM at the American Philosophical Society’s Benjamin Franklin Hall (427 Chestnut Street).  For tickets and information, visit our website or call the PCMS Box Office at 215.569.8080.