Profile: Jesper Svedberg, Principal Cellist with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

My Dad is a very keen amateur violinist. There was always music in the home when I was growing up, and we often used to go to concerts. I’m one of three: my sister plays the viola and my brother plays the violin. My Dad loves chamber music and he always had the idea of creating a string quartet in the family: we did actually achieve that on a couple of occasions.

He talked about practising slowly, especially when tackling a new piece: give yourself time, and allow yourself to listen. He was a doctor – I’ve often found a connection between medicine and music.

I was very fortunate to have good teachers all the way through my developing years, especially in the professors Frans Helmerson and Torleif Thedeen while I was studying at the Edsberg Institute in Stockholm. Frans encouraged me to attend the week-long Manchester Cello Festival as a first year student and this experience really opened my eyes. It was packed with really well-known people (including YoYo Ma and Stephen Isserlis) doing concerts and masterclasses. I was blown away by Isserlis’ playing of Britten’s Suite: I had no idea that the instrument could be so expressive; equally, YoYo Ma did a Lalo Concerto, and he was so much fun.

I also studied at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London with Louise Hopkins: again, an excellent teacher.

I’ve been playing chamber music with the Kungsbacka Piano Trio for many years. Chamber music is so healthy for you as a musician: with a larger orchestra you follow the guidance and will of the conductor, whereas with chamber you have to work as a close-knit team on phrasing, tempo and so on.

I’ve been with the BSO since 2011. The BSO is like a big family.  It is made up of very friendly people where everyone helps out and looks after each other. The orchestra love performing and I think that really comes across on stage and makes this a very unique ensemble.

While with the orchestra, I have worked with some amazing people, including Kirill Karabits. It was an interesting journey to record all the Prokofiev symphonies, which we did over 2-3 years. These works encompass such a variety of light and heavy issues. We also did Prokofiev’s symphony No.5 at a Prom.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

A cello is a very physical instrument, so you have to work on your physical condition: I do a fair bit of tennis, golf and skiing. I focus on ergonomics when I’m teaching: I encourage natural flowing motions, like what you see with tennis players.

What are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

There’s a great challenge to keep all the many people “together” in an orchestra – fascinating but also complex. I try to engender a positive attitude in the section. I’ve really no idea how such a complex “machine” actually gets things done!

It’s also lovely being in such close proximity to amazing soloists.

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity? 

Prokofiev paints an amazing sound wall in his textures and melodies. He’s not afraid to express ugliness alongside beauty ( for example in his ballet Romeo and Juliet, which the BSO will be performing this February) – he’s so human and clearly went through so many challenges in his life. We played Schubert’s great C Major Symphony recently, something I’d not played before. His music expresses the utmost beauty, his world is always sunny. His work alternates between happiness and sadness – he speaks directly to me.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Have an open attitude to music and focus on your instrument. Experiment with playing all the various genres – this broadens your horizons. I play film music, premieres of new works, Romantic repertoire, specialist Baroque pieces. This variety makes everything so exciting, and this encourages you to work hard.

How would you define success as a musician?

I remind myself that we are so lucky that I play live on stage on a daily basis. I work hard on communication and dialogue both with my fellow musicians and the audience, and when I get a reaction I feel more energised. That makes my world tick.

You can see me play in across the rest of the BSO’s spring season, including on 14 February in the BSO’s Romeo and Juliet concert in Poole. Visit the BSO page on MiP to view its Portsmouth concerts.

Image credit: Mark Allan

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