Gary Hoffman, cello

A Passion for the Open Sea

“We play the way we are.”

These words seem particularly apt in the case of Gary Hoffman.

Whether in front of the audience, in the company of his students at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Belgium or on the most prestigious American campuses, Gary Hoffman is not there to deliver a message. He stands before us, not to please us. He plays out of necessity, because music and life are one. This seems so simple in a world overflowing with images, slogans and standpoints.

Like all poets of the stage, Gary Hoffman made his choices early on. His parents (both professional musicians) and then his teachers (Karl Fruh in Chicago and, even more so, Janos Starker) taught him not to compromise his principles. Obtaining the First Grand Prix Rostropovitch in Paris in 1986 opened doors for him. For all that, he has never compromised on his artistic choices.

He plays to be himself. Rules impose themselves as a matter of course: master the technique and gradually enter into the world of a work. But to what end? We must seek the answer far beyond perfection … For the artist is fulfilled when his playing reveals the beauty of a phrase and he can share its light. In his eyes, the cult of proficiency and power never takes precedence over the expression of beauty, that which has nourished him since his youth when he listened to the great musicians and when he discovered cinema and painting, his other passions. To build a philosophy of life through art: could there be any nobler ambition?

He plays to transmit absolute respect for the score, but also to question tradition. To admire does not meant to be enslaved to. His recordings for La Dolce Volta are proof of this. To enter the stage or to observe the microphone that picks up the wave is to have reflected already, not to have stopped oneself from thinking, even going against current fashions. To young musicians, he passes on a taste for doubt, curiosity and risk, from the great repertoire to new compositions. Why are we attracted by so many artists from the past whose imperfect playing we now readily acknowledge? How can one not already sing inwardly even before placing the bow on the strings of the cello, all the more so as the one accompanying him is the Nicolo Amati of 1662 which belonged to Leonard Rose?

Ever since his debut at London’s Wigmore Hall at the age of 15, he has been playing for an ideal: to serve the composer with a proposal, his proposal. It is impossible therefore for him to lie to himself under the gaze of a Pablo Casals or an Arthur Rubinstein. Gary Hoffman recalls one of the most moving moments of his life, when he saw the pianist cross the stage to the instrument. The simple movement of his body in space became the essence of his existence, the prelude to the unspeakable. It is the silence, the refuge between the notes, that brings music into existence. It is self-sufficient, it soothes the sufferings of life. Gary Hoffman makes no difference between the word and the vibration of the strings … It is all delightfully confusing and wonderfully unpredictable. Like life.