Dobrawa Czocher, cellist & composer

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I guess at first it must have been my mum who’s a violinist, and who introduced the cello and classical music to me when I was a child. When I started education, I was also very lucky to learn from many incredible teachers (and talented fellow students too!). I mean of course cello teachers, but not only them – also those who showed me the power of chamber music, where cooperation and listening to your partner are crucial. The orchestra and observing conductors and their charisma or lack of that and how it influences the whole organism of the orchestra, I think shaped my understanding of what I would like to pursue in my artistic path. On the other hand, I always liked to surround myself with creators, although for most of my life I was a performer. I was keen to see how they work and talk with them about the creative process. One of the examples is Hania Rani, my long-time friend, who at some point encouraged me to try my own hand in this matter. 

Who or what inspired your upcoming recording, DREAMSCAPES? 

I think every album is like a summary of who you are as an artist at the moment of creating it – what you experienced and what you found important to present, what is your musical language and message you direct to recipients etc. So, giving just one answer who or what exactly inspired me to make this album is difficult, but I remember one moment when I realized that my instrument can be used in such a new and interesting way. It was when I heard Peter Gregson’s ‘Bach Recomposed’ for the first time in Paolo Sorrentino’s ‘Young Pope’ series. I can say it was revolutionary for me, I’d never heard cello like that – modern, but still classically beautiful. And my love for Sorrentino, of course, made the feeling even bigger. It was still some time until I started composing but I think the idea of that sort of approach to cello started growing. 

What have been the greatest challenges of your collaboration as a musician so far?

Interesting question. I think it’s changing and depends on the moment you are in and what you need or lack then. Right now, for example, a challenge for me is to find enough strength and enthusiasm for work when I travel a lot or when I have so many deadlines. And what is connected to that – sometimes I wonder how to let the joy of performing win over nervousness or tiredness or whatever other unpleasant feeling. 

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of? 

Oh maybe continuing my latest thought – I am most proud of those performances when I am able to forget everything else and just become music. When I flow with sounds and nothing else matters. When the joy of that is filling me wholly and hopefully – and others too. 

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I live! Live with curiosity. Inspiration is not something you can define, and it can always be something different, sometimes it might be a sentence you heard on a bus said by the stranger, another time it will be a book, or a stone found in the forest. Let’s take this last example: at first I could be struck by its shape and appearance but then I could start imagining how long it took for this little thing to be here so that I could see it, and how long the journey it went through to be here today. That gives room for endless speculation and that is so inspiring! If I am open enough and curious, inspiration is everywhere. 

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I love to perform in old buildings with a kind of spirit like churches or old wooden concert halls. Once, I played a recital in the Orthodox Church in the Bieszczady Mountains in Poland, it was late and dark, people were sitting around me on the floor, and there was only one little lamp on my stand. That was something else. Or when I played in the concert hall of an old castle. I like places which are an inspiration in themselves, so I am just trying to adjust to the atmosphere there. I take what the hall gives me, very often these types of buildings also have fantastic, natural acoustics. 

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Once, Hania and I were invited to play at some important ceremony (100th birthday of ZAiKS – Association of Authors). At that time, we were performing pieces from our first album „Biała flaga”. We accepted the invitation of course, but we didn’t know that we would be playing in front of the greatest poets, musicians, movie directors, actors, and generally greatest artists that Poland ever had. You should have seen our astonishment when we saw the names on the reservations. That was an incredible experience, I still can’t believe it really happened. A second truly amazing experience was our whole Inner Symphonies tour – it was the first tour like that for me and from this one I especially remember playing in BOZAR in Brussels and Union Chapel in London (these halls have the sort of spirit I mentioned previously and which I simply love).

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Finding a recognizable way of expression when performing or composing but not repeating yourself, being true to yourself but open to the new. Finding balance between what I have to as an artist and what I want. Also being harmonious with my personal life and career. 

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

It depends on the profession but what I know best is playing the cello so I can say to aspiring cellists, listen to your teachers but find your own style, never push the sound, and try to find your own personal one. Practicing is crucial but try to find a way so that it’s fun for you, not torturous. Your entire career depends on the way you practice at home. Long story short: love what you do! 

Dobrawa Czocher’s new album DREAMSCAPES is released on 27 January 2022

Dobrawa Czocher is a Polish cellist born into a musical family who started playing at the age of 7. She soon became inseparable from the cello and from there it was a natural decision to dedicate her life to music. She is graduate of two prestigious music universities: Chopin University of Music in Warsaw as a student of Professor Piotr Hausenplas’s class and Hochschule für Musik in Detmold in Germany under Professor Alexander Gebert. She is also the winner of several solo and chamber music competitions. She has participated in numerous international master classes and music festivals.