Cellist Amanda Forsyth returns to Calgary with Zukerman Trio
February 16, 2017
This probably shouldn’t be taken as an invitation to behave badly at a classical music concert. But Amanda Forsyth says she wouldn’t mind it if you behaved badly at a classical music concert.
“I think they should do what they want,” says the cellist, on the line from her home in New York City. “The whole problem with classical music is that everyone thinks they have to behave. What has to happen is the music fills their bodies and makes them feel something, whatever it is they want to feel.”
This doesn’t mean we are likely to witness mosh pits when the Zukerman Trio, which includes Forsyth, husband and virtuoso violinist Pinchas Zukerman, and pianist Angela Cheng, takes the stage on Friday at the Bella Concert Hall. But her relaxed attitude when it comes to audience behaviour seems to reflect a joy she has found in her own new-found freedom. Both Forsyth and Zukerman left their posts at the National Arts Centre Orchestra in 2015, she as principal cellist and he as director, to pursue other interests. That includes concentrating on what had already been a busy solo careers and touring globally with the trio.
“I’ve felt really free since I’ve left being a member of an orchestra,” Forsyth says. “It’s just been very freeing and exciting.”
“Let it go. Let it go,” she sings, for added emphasis.
Being principal cellist for an orchestra is clearly very different from playing in a string quartet or Chamber ensemble, which is also very different from playing in the trio.
She describes the unique chemistry between players in the Zukerman Trio as musically “telepathic,” an intimate bond that has developed over time.
“You get used to each other and you know what’s going to happen,” she says. “Playing concerts isn’t ever finite. Things can go wrong, you play that phrase better than you did last time, or worse, or different. That’s what’s exciting about life performing, it’s never going to be the same. I always make the analogy: if you fold the towels and put them in the cupboard, that’s finite. You can do them perfectly and you can line them all up and you can’t do it any better. But with music, you can always do something different or better and there’s many different ways to do it.”
“It’s three soloists coming together and then making one,” she says. “It’s beautiful.”
Few would argue with that. At the time of this interview, the plan was for the trio to perform pieces by Franz Schubert, Dmitri Shostakovich and Reinhold Gliere at the Bella Concert Hall.
The group was formed in 2011 to allow Forsyth, Cheng and Zukerman to offer trio pieces as an alternative to the quintet works they performed as part of the Zukerman Chamber Players.
Once described by the Ottawa Citizen as “the golden couple of the National Arts Centre,” Zukerman and Forsyth added glamour and romance to the classical music scene. Their signature piece became Brahms Double Concerto for violin and cello, which they played in concert halls throughout the world.
Married for 18 years, the romance actually began in Calgary. It was during her six-year tenure as principal cellist at the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in the 1990s.
“When I was principal cello he came to play a Beethoven concerto and he decided he would marry me,” says Forsyth. “He only told me that later. It was just a strange fluke that I went to Ottawa to be principal cello, it was the week he was doing a guest week as conductor. I got the job and he told me he was getting the job as well. That was kind of nice. We were just buddies and really good friends and colleagues. All that changed eventually.”
Born in South Africa, Forsyth moved to Edmonton with her family when she was two years old. She began playing the cello less than a year later. The daughter of composer Malcolm Forsyth, who passed away in 2011, she studied in London, Los Angeles and New York City. After a short stint with the Toronto Symphony, she joined the Calgary Philharmonic as principal cellist at the age of 24.
Future plans for the trio include Forsyth going back to her roots and taking on her father’s composition, Six Episodes After Keats for piano trio.
“No one has played that in a long time,” she said. “I used to play that as a kid. That’s another important thing for me, to make sure Malcolm Forsyth’s music is still played since he has passed away and he is such a great Canadian composer. I’m a big ambassador of his music.”
The Zukerman Trio will perform at Mount Royal University’s Bella Concert Hall on Friday.