Music is my first mother tongue. I was raised in a family promoting the Arts and my parents offered me my first violin when I was 3 years old. Five years later, listening to the first movement of the E minor Brahms cello sonata, the instrument put a spell on me. Since then, it has been a faithful traveling companion and I am immensely grateful to my teachers from the wonderful French cello school : Patrick Gabard and Jean-Marie Gamard, and also those who have contributed to my artistic development: Janos Starker, Alexandre Kniazev, Ralph Kirshbaum, Laurence Lesser and Walter Levin.
Winning my 1st cello and chamber music prizes at the Paris Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique, I met, at age 19, my two main masters: Lluis Claret and Bernard Greenhouse, student of Pablo Casals and founding member of the Beaux Arts Trio, whose playing could be summarized as noble, dignified, and authentic. One evening, after a concert, “Bernie” putting his hand on his heart, confided to me : “The secret is here, Léa”. All is said.
Three years in the European Union Youth Orchestra lead me to play in grand concert halls: the Berlin Philharmonic, the Moscow Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, the Edinburgh Usher Hall, and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, under the direction of Bernard Haïtink. I have vivid memories of the 4th Symphony of Shostakovich, which made the glass ceiling of the Prague Rudolfminum vibrate, of Vladimir Ashkenazy in a magisterial Strauss Alpester Symphony in Vienna’s Musikverein, of Sir Colin Davis in the Finale of Sibelius’s 2nd Symphony at the Royal Albert Hall of London, which brought the public to tears, and of Ivan Fischer in admirable Romanian Dances of Bartók. I later worked with other European groups such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra and, for the last three years, I was the solo cellist of the European Sinfonietta Chamber Orchestra. Playing with these orchestras has given me access to an international audience.
In the United States, Janos Starker, “whose interior flame would freeze the air around him”, as he defined himself, lead me to discover the purity of sound, minimum means, as well as austere and rugged beauty. One memory still makes me smile. Stopping by Indiana University, I wanted to play for the master. “Well, we’ll see,” he grumbled. Saturday, master classes day, in front of an audience full of students and admirers, he told me with a rocky voice tone, “Play me a D Major scale.” A little feverish, I played the scale. « Hm, at the Paris conservatoire, we surely play a lot of scales!” he said. When I then played a movement of one of Bach’s Suite and the first of the Five Popular Pieces Op. 102 by Schumann, he exclaimed: “I like your temperament and your character! You’ve convinced me.” That evening we had a long conversation and shared thoughts about music and life.
Then, the time for transmission finally came. In 2007, I settled in Palestine and taught at the Edward Saïd National Conservatory in Ramallah, Bethlehem and East Jerusalem. My interest for the Middle East goes a long way back: concerts in Iran, travel through Jordan and Egypt in 2006 where I experienced a strong and long-lasting musical emotion with Sinaï Bedouin; the ancestral sound of his instrument still haunts my soul. I deepened my understanding of Middle Eastern and Far Eastern music in 2015 during a third long stay with several masters at the Banff Center for the Arts in Canada: Pandit Dhruba Gosh, Yogesh Samsi (India), Charbel Rouhana (Lebanon), Kiya Tabassian (Iran) and Didem Basar (Turkey). Oral transmission, « heart against heart », has always been essential for me.
Back in France for the last ten years, I teach at the conservatories of the 6th and 13th districts of Paris, pursue a chamber music career and perform on stage for various artistic projects. As far as my teaching is concerned, my approach is tailored to each student. But my main interest is to encourage the student who is eager to learn, whatever his or her talent might be. Some have embraced a successful career, and others keep playing regularly, continuously looking for Beauty, to my deepest joy!
« I find her talent to the quite superior with fine musicality and great strength »
« She is a terrific cellist, with an awesome technique always serving a tremendous curiosity on musical ideas »