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Sol Gabetta
© Uwe Arens

Portrait artist Sol Gabetta

In radical balance

She knows no limits. Be it baroque, early classical, romantic, modern or contemporary music, the cellist Sol Gabetta is at home in every style. Yet she never falls into the trap of routine. “I think that’s because I prepare every work again from scratch – even if I know it well,” she emphasizes. “It keeps my engagement with music alive.”

Sol Gabetta was born in Argentina in 1981. To begin with, she wanted to play the piano, like her mother, then took up the clarinet, and finally the cello. “I got up every morning around 5 to practise.”
For all that, her playing never feels forced – although: “To come across as easy and natural, it has to be more than easy and natural for me, and you only reach that stage through regular training – as in sport.”

Critics praise Sol Gabetta’s “brilliant technique,” calling her playing “fleet-footed and passionate,” “deftly virtuosic” with “great warmth and romantic elan.” They emphasize her ability to make “her cello’s warm tone sing” with a “velvety, silky-soft tone.” That timbre prompted Pēteris Vasks to write his concerto “presence” in 2012 and dedicate it to her. Indeed, the special way Sol Gabetta uses vibrato is one of the main traits of her sound. “Vibrato should only be a colour – a breath, a breeze.” But strict avoidance of vibrato, as advocated by Roger Norrington, among others, isn’t for her either. “It’s all about finding a balance.”

With her brother Andrés, Sol Gabetta founded the baroque orchestra Cappella Gabetta. “I wanted to benefit from playing with musicians who have more experience in historical sound and the baroque. But I’m still a modern cellist first and foremost. … We’ve come a long way today: many of my colleagues have mastered both instruments – the modern and baroque cello. It opens up your mind and your sound. We’re still stuck with a romanticising tendency, that’s the problem. Even among my generation, it’s not questioned enough.” Which speaks for her self-critical questioning of her own practice. “It’s important to work on yourself, but without destroying yourself.” Yet another echo of the radical balance which makes Sol Gabetta who she is – and makes her special.

Marco Frei