REFLECTIONS on being a cellist 
by Moray Welsh
When I reflect on my life as a cellist, I count myself extremely fortunate to have known two of the greatest cellists of recent times, Mstislav Rostropovich and Jacqueline du Pré.
My first enthusiasm  for the cello was kindled through hearing it on the radio, and indeed for many years, it was through listening to broadcasts that I was inspired by the sound of the instrument. Not a single programme of music for the cello would escape my attention. Fortunately, though I grew up in a small village in Scotland, it was not too far from Edinburgh, and soon I was able to hear the real thing in concerts. It was then that I really got hooked. I vividly remember the excitement of gradually “discovering” the repertoire for the cello, barely being able to contain my anticipation, when I discovered that Brahms had apparently written not one Sonata, but two ! How many more could there be, I wondered?
I became an avid  and star-struck concert-goer. My week centered round the Friday night concerts given in the Usher Hall by the Scottish National Orchestra, and soon I was also creeping into rehearsals. On one of those occasions the then manager of the orchestra, Robert Ponsonby, saw me and asked me to leave, as I didn't have “official’ permission to be there. Many years later when I played as a soloist at the  Proms, by that time also under the aegis of Robert Ponsonby, I took malicious pleasure  in reminding him of that story! Anyway, the experience didn’t deter me from pursuing my goal, which was to hear as many great cellists as possible.
Before long there was a Russian cellist with an unpronounceable name coming to Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Festival was featuring Russian musicians, and this tornado of a man swept aside all previous notions of what a cellist was or could be.
At the same time his repertoire was breaking ground, with the first Concerto of Shostakovich pushing the limits of technique way and beyond anything that I could have imagined. But most of all, the sound that this man made was spellbinding. It was an immediately recognisable sound, and seemed to herald a new age for cello playing. The volume  was limitless, the intensity searing, the  hushed pianissimos breathtaking. Added to which, a virtuosic technique that left most other cellists at the starting post.
The dynamism of Rostropovich made an overwhelming impression on me, and I wouldn't have dreamt in a million years that some nineteen years later I was to become a pupil  of Rostropovich in Moscow. Such stuff as dreams are made of.......
But in the meantime, another whirlwind came into my cello-life. Barely seventeen, a girl with long golden hair and the romantic name of Jacqueline du Pré burst onto the musical stage. The first thing I heard her play “live” was the Brahms Second Sonata, and I was barely able to think of anything else for days. Sir Alexander Gibson had recognised her outstanding gift and invited her to Scotland to give many of her early solo concerto appearances. On one of my first meetings with her, when I was thirteen, I offered to carry her cello back to the hotel after the rehearsal. Little did she know that I would have walked to John o’ Groats, Land’s End and back again.......
In spite of the astonishing brilliance of Rostropovich, this flaxen haired girl seemed to have something else to say through the cello, which made the instrument speak and sing like the human voice. The nuance in her phrasing  completely bowled me over - I had never heard such a total identification with the emotion of music, and whether finding ecstasy or tragedy, her range of expression was enormous. Her extraordinary ability to sculpt a phrase to reach the emotional core was a revelation - I would listen to the same phrase over and over again trying to probe into the alchemy of her technique.
In common parlance, these two players “blew my mind”. What more vivid inspiration could I have wished for in my “nursery” years as a cellist?
With  the passing of time, and the unpredictability of fate, my life became closely interwoven with both of my heroes, “Slava” as teacher, and Jackie as friend. To have seen, heard and worked with both these great musicians, would in itself be enough for several lifetimes. I am constantly reminded  of the influence I felt from both.
Each generation finds new inspiration, and we can probably all name occasions or performances that have left an indelible impression. In the case of the Elgar Concerto, Jackie’s identification with the piece was so total, that it makes it hard to feel the necessity of playing it again. All’s been said. But as a player, one can  go on exploring the music, and trying to find one’s own relationship with it. And one must never forget there  may be a young cellist listening for whom there is the excitement of hearing the music for the first time. Just as I heard the Brahms Second Sonata for the first time........