Lawrence Wei on stage in the 2017 Sydney Eisteddfod. Photo: WinkiPoP Media
The 2017 Sydney Eisteddfod Alf & Pearl Pollard Memorial Instrumental Awards winner Lawrence Wei, spoke to Sydney Eisteddfod after his big win to discuss all things music. He shared what inspired him to start playing the cello and what he has learnt through competing in Sydney Eisteddfod.
Lawrence also revealed what he enjoys most about David Popper's Hungarian Rhapsody, the piece he performed at the final.
Why do you love playing the cello?
I sincerely enjoy performing the cello, as it has a beautiful and resonant sound that resembles the voice of a tenor. The range of different musical sounds that can be produced through a variety of techniques is simply fascinating. As quoted by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "music is the universal language of mankind".
I love both the solo and chamber aspects of music as they provide an equal balance between virtuosic brilliance and performing as a group. The King's School has given me wonderful opportunities for solo performances, and the Rising Stars Program at the Sydney Conservatorium has allowed me to understand and experience professional chamber music. I am greatly appreciative of the opportunities I receive as a musician to further enhance my musical studies.
What inspired you to start playing the cello?
I was inspired to begin my journey on the cello when I first heard the sonorous and ringing sound of the instrument, and I was astounded at how a simple construction of wood could produce such lyrical melodies. I also developed my interest in the cello, as the instrument has a huge range of varying and contrasting timbres, opening pathways to different interpretations.
You chose to perform David Popper’s Hungarian Rhapsody, tell us about this piece.
I performed Popper's Hungarian Rhapsody because I thoroughly enjoy the contrasting sections that reflect on the gypsy musical style. I especially love the slow and intense melodies that sound as if someone is weeping and filled with sorrow. The piece also includes virtuosic and thrilling passages which I thought was appropriate for the Alf & Pearl Pollard Memorial Award.
Which other performers do you most like to listen to, and why?
There are numerous performers that inspire and teach me about the music I am learning. However, the two cellists I especially enjoy listening to are Mischa Maisky and Yo Yo Ma. Mischa has such a wonderful technique and terrific virtuosity, while Yo Yo Ma produces the most beautiful and pristine melodies that are breath-taking and exquisite. I am also deeply thankful for the guidance my teacher, Susan Blake, has given me, which has undoubtedly shaped the way I perform on the cello.
What have you learnt from your Sydney Eisteddfod experience?
From my experience at the Sydney Eisteddfod, and in particular the Alf & Pearl Pollard Award, I have learnt that it is not only vital to have a reliable and solid technique, but to also incorporate your own musical interpretation into it. You need to share your music to the audience convincingly, and in order to do that you need to understand the original meaning of what the composer intended.
What would you tell someone that was thinking about entering Sydney Eisteddfod?
If someone was contemplating on entering the Sydney Eisteddfod, I would fully support them, and encourage them to enter. The Sydney Eisteddfod provides wonderful opportunities for artists, of any age, to develop their performance skills. The final result is not what matters, but what is truly important is the valuable experience of playing on stage. Without the organization and its generous donors and supporters, young performers will not have the rewarding opportunities of sharing their music in front of an audience, receiving insightful feedback and learning from other talented competitors.
What do you hope to achieve next?
I hope to further develop my technique on the cello and expand my repertoire to experience different styles of compositions. I also wish to improve my knowledge on compositions in order to grow my understanding of cello playing, and enhance my performance skills. I am looking forward to the Sydney Eisteddfod season in 2018!