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Q&A | 24 Questions For Elinor Frey

By Michael Vincent on February 17, 2016

Cellist Elinor Frey answers 24 questions, including her favourite films and the luckiest moments of her life.

Elinor Frey
Elinor Frey

Montreal-based cellist Elinor Frey is equally fascinated by the cello’s past, and she is about its future. At home on both period and modern instruments, she has performed with Tafelmusik, Ensemble Caprice, Studio de musique ancienne, Arion, Theatre of Early Music, Les Violon du Roy. Her quartet Pallade Musica won the grand prize at the 2012 Early Music America Baroque Performance Competition and second prize at the 2014 International Van Wassenaer Competition in Utrecht. Solo recording projects include Dialoghi (2008) and La voce del violoncello (2013), and Berlin Sonatas (2015) which was recently nominated for a Juno Award for album of the year. Elinor trained at McGill, Mannes, and Juilliard.

Name your favourite concert hall/venue anywhere

The one where the audience is listening attentively with an open heart.

Your role models?

Marc Vanscheeuwijck, Steven Stucky, my mom.

Your favourite sound?

The resonant open string of a cello, of course!

Your least favourite sound?

A loud TV news station blasting in the next room or in a taxi.

First thing that comes to your mind when you think about Toronto

Supportive friends and colleagues.

If you could board a plane this afternoon, where would it be taking you?

Rome! And then on to some place in Italy that I’ve never been, like Sicily or Lecce or Matera. I love Italian people (ciao amici!!), food (pasta!!!), language (ciao ciao ciao ciao!), history, architecture, landscapes…

The three books that you read that made an impact on you in your formative years?

— The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong (taught me that young people can have a vision for change and together make an impact on nature and on their community), 

— D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths (OBSESSED with Greek myths, plus the illustrations were spectacular),

The Stories of Eva Luna by Isabelle Allende (every one a gem)

Whose musical style do you covet?

I have a big music-crush on the violinist/conductor Reinhard Goebel. I like how nerdy he is and how he shows us to keep exploring a wide variety of works/styles.

The cliché that you overuse?

“Let’s try, it’s ok, we can always erase it!” My quartet colleagues will recognize this one!

The different career path that you could have gone on?

I would have liked to be an archaeologist. As a kid, I loved Greek myths and was very inspired by the story of archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. Imagine discovering an ancient Greek gold diadem by digging (carefully!) in the ground! I think playing Early Music can have a little of that thrill. We poke around (sometimes actually in libraries and archives) for unknown music, some of which is absolutely stunning. 

Your three favourite films?

Caro Diario, Scarlet Pimpernel, anything with Marcello Mastroianni 

The character flaw in others that you can’t abide?

Lack of enthusiasm.

What was the luckiest moment in your life?

Being born next to my twin sister, Maddy.

The biggest mistake you’ve ever made?

Speaking out of anger/fear.

What is the worst thing about your work?

Scheduling. So many times a season you feel the crushing sadness of having to say no to a wonderful concert opportunity because something else is already booked. To survive as a freelancer, one needs MANY concerts, but then when they collide in the same week and can feel so frustrating.

The talent that you wish you possessed?

To hit a hard and fast tennis serve.

What musical instrument do you secretly long to play?

I really want to play cornetto!

If you had a motto, what would it be?

“Just do it.”

Your favourite word?

I don’t have one, but I’ll tell you my mom’s: “incandescent.”

The strangest road you’ve ever travelled?

The path to being a professional cellist!! What a crazy ride!

The first album that made you love music?

Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite on LP in my parents’ living room. I used to lie on the floor listening, and my imagination would take over. Also Sequentia’s “Canticles of Ecstasy,” their first Hildegard von Bingen album, showed me how music could transcend time and place.

Three pieces, songs, or arias that you could listen to on repeat for an hour?

— Steven Isserlis/Olli Mustonen playing Janacek’s Fairy Tales, 

— Steven Stucky’s Radical Light

— Isaiah Ceccarelli’s “Toute clarté m’est obscure (III)” with clarinetist Lori Freedman improvising at the end (I have had it on repeat on Soundcloud for months),  

— So many pieces by Bach that I couldn’t narrow it down.

The first three things that you do every morning?

1) Make a great cappuccino for myself and any visiting guests,

2) Look around me and feel grateful,

3) Check emails and get right to work.

The best way to die?

Very very old with a weakened but still vital mind and body, dying in sleep without disease, still having been engaged with family, friends, music, community.

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Michael Vincent
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Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent is Publisher of Ludwig Van. He publishes regularly and writes occasionally. He has worked as a senior editor over fifteen years and is a former freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
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