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A sensual concert experience with Umberto Clerici

Jolene Laverty

Italian-born cellist Umberto Clerici joins the Canberra Symphony Orchestra on 17 and 18 May.

Umberto Clerici was born in Turin, Italy, and first started studying the cello at the age of five. He brings to the Australian stage all the richness and diversity of the European cultural environment, which he was immersed in for decades before accepting a position as Principal Cellist at the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and Cello Lecturer at the Sydney University. Umberto Clerici performs with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra for the ActewAGL Llewellyn Series, Cello on 17 and 18 May.

Can you describe the connection you feel with your cello?

“I find the cello a very sensual instrument (using the etymological meaning of the word ‘sensual’ – connected to the senses). It is a very physical instrument; it is so big that it touches the legs, the chest, and the floor. I love to feel the contact with the sound – the vibrations of the strings under my left hand, the resistance and the elasticity of the bow. I love also the idea that we both face the audience frontally. It is like singing together toward the audience – not as a dialogue but as a common voice.”

How do you feel when you’re playing your instrument?

“Free! What I love most about concerts is that nothing can stop that moment. It has its own space and time where phone calls, door bells, sms and other distractions are put outside. There is only one chance to nail a technical passage, one chance to say something that might be unknown but also unrepeatable, one space to share beauty.”


What’s your favourite memory of playing your instrument?

“Having the feeling to be outside my body, like an extracorporeal experience. It has happened only a few times, but when the preparation (all the micro movements, the memory, the symbiosis with the instrument) make the notes fuse in harmony with each other, then there is no effort or control anymore, just music. It feels like listening to myself from outside rather than playing.”

Is there a story behind the instrument you play?

“I have been very lucky and I’ve played many wonderful instruments, all from foundations or collectors that have lent them to me. The most important was probably the Guadagnini of Antonio Janigro that had been played before me by many incredible musicians. But after 15 years of research, I finally found MY instruments! One is a Testore, made in Milano in 1758 and it has a special soul, almost its own.

For this concert with the CSO, I will play a Matteo Goffriller from Venice (1722). I bought [it] together with a generous friend, and have just brought it to Australia. This instrument is very fascinating because it belonged to a very well-known German quartet until the 1970s (the Kreuzberg quartet in Berlin) and then was played for many years by a crossover cellist called Wolfgang Tiepold who used it in any sort of electronic experimentations until the early 2000s. Now it has come back to classical music.

What I find incredible about these old instruments is that they survived the French Revolution, Napoleon’s reign, the Industrial Revolution, the World Wars. And they are still here, capable of transporting us to other times and dimensions.”

Experience for yourself the romance and warmth of this sensual instrument, as played by Umberto Clerici.

the essentials

What: ActewAGL Llewellyn Series, Cello
When: 17 and 18 May
Where: Llewellyn Hall, Australian National University, Acton
Tickets: bit.ly/2qlgCnF

Conductor Stanley Dodds
Cello Umberto Clerici

In the lineup:

  • HAYDN Overture to L’isola disabitata
  • SCHUMANN Cello Concerto in A minor
  • SCULTHORPE String Sonata No.3 (Jabiru Dreaming)
  • BRAHMS Symphony No.3 in F major

HerCanberra are proud sponsors of The Canberra Symphony Orchestra

Feature image: Ivano Buat


Jolene Laverty

Jolene Laverty was born and raised in Darwin, but has lived in Canberra for most of her adult life. She spent close to twenty years in radio, which took her to the copper outback of Port Augusta to the sparkling aquamarine waves of the Whitsundays. Today she is a member of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra*, ANU student, wife of a high-school teacher/rock-musician, and mother to three children who were each born in a different decade. *not allowed on stage. More about the Author