Inside Southbank Sinfonia

An orchestra like no other, based in the heart of London

“This concerto is like a wild animal”

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Mathieu Foubert

On Thursday 12 May, Southbank Sinfonia cellist Mathieu Foubert tackles Shostakovich’s mighty Cello Concerto No.1 in a Free Rush Hour Concert. Watch his preview above and read his words below for an insight into one of the great instrumental challenges. 

This concerto is like a wild animal. It’s a like a great fish that’s difficult to catch, then just as you think you’ve got it, it slips through the net and you have to learn it again. And again, and again. You can’t have it in your fingers for a lifetime.

It’s a difficult piece to learn even today, when we know Shostakovich’s language. I can only imagine what it must have been like for Rostropovich – the cellist who first played it – because the language would have been so strange. I remember when I first looked at the part when I was teenager being afraid at the number of notes, and it took – and still takes – many hours of slow practice. It really does demands a lot of sweat and blood to get to know it.

That said, this piece is very special for me as it was the first really big concerto I played as a teenager. It’s a really fun piece because it’s been built for the cello and the cellist. It makes the cello sound great all the time. It also requires a lot of strength because for so much of the time it’s really loud and really fast, and you need to fight a big orchestra. You have to compete with their sound, so it’s incredibly demanding for the soloist.

It’s difficult to pick just one favourite moment from the piece because it’s a long, action-packed trip from the beginning to the end, and there are amazing parts in every movement. But it all builds to the last movement, ending up totally crazy with a fortissimo so huge that you almost break your cello!

Three words to describe this concerto?

Sarcastic, definitely. Mad… and fun.

Hear Mathieu and Southbank Sinfonia perform the concerto at 6.00pm, Thursday 12 May at St John’s Waterloo. Find out more about the concert here.

Find out more about Mathieu Foubert here.


Author: southbanksinfonia

Every year, Southbank Sinfonia brings together 33 young musicians for an experience that will change their lives. Find out about our upcoming concerts, including our Free Rush Hour Series, at

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