Interview

The young virtuoso harpist Emmanuel Ceysson is today one of the most talented classical musicians of his generation. He agreed to let us get to know him better by giving an interview: ‘Who are you, Emmanuel?’

As a classical musician in the twenty-first century, what are your feelings at the moment?



Enthusiasm: at the idea of living out my passion and sharing it with as many people as possible. Ambition: I want to make the harp more widely known and bring it back to the forefront of the classical musical scene. Pride: at championing a repertoire that’s still neglected but is rich in colours and extraordinary sonorities.

What prompted you to choose this instrument?

First of all, the sound. When I started musical appreciation classes at the age of six, I fell in love with Mozart’s Concerto for flute and harp. It all seemed so obvious and natural: that timbre, that resonance, those arpeggios awoke echoes in me like no other music before.
 Later, it was the sensuousness of the relationship between the musician and the harp that confirmed my vocation. More than with any other instrument, the sound of the harp is generated by a carnal relationship: first because of the contact between the string and the pad of the finger, then in the symbolic gesture of taking the instrument in your arms, so that it becomes a confidante, a mistress...



What’s your most vivid memory since you began your solo career?

A whole host of memories spring to mind, each of them associated with places or people I’m particularly attached to . . . But if I had to choose the most outstanding experience I remember, it would be a fairly recent one: my debut at the Berlin Philharmonie with Ginastera’s Harp Concerto in January 2012. The hall, designed at the instigation of Herbert von Karajan, possesses a soul of its own: a soloist feels absolutely tiny there as the centre of the audience’s attention, like in a football stadium! But at the same time you also feel very ‘big’ because of the way you’re carried by the history and the magic of the place, which has acoustics that are quite simply extraordinary.



The biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?

For a soloist, the biggest risk is not to take any risks! To surpass yourself, to go further and deeper into an interpretation, you have to know how to call yourself into question and take risks. That’s what I often tell my pupils in masterclasses: ‘Don’t stay in your comfort zone! Let yourself go, make propositions, dare to do something new!’ If I hadn’t taken risks, I would probably never have entered the ARD Competition in 2009, I’d never have embarked on recording a disc of operatic fantasias, and I certainly wouldn’t have written my Paraphrase on Carmen. When I come to think of it, and think of my recital programmes too, the right question would be more like the opposite: ‘Do you ever NOT take risks?’!!

Your greatest regret?


Many moments of self-questioning, but never any regrets. There’s no point.


For you, true virtuosity is...

A perfect blend of musicality, technique, and commitment.

Which harpists are your ‘models’?

En dehors de Bach que je vénère, Wagner et Strauss (Richard) dont j’admire le sens de l’orchestration et l’écriture mélodique, mes compositeurs préférés appartiennent à la mouvance ‘impressionniste’ apparue à la fin du XIXe siècle : Debussy, Ravel, Tournier… J’aime leurs recherches de couleurs, leur écriture imagée fourmillant de sensations. Je trouve que leur style convient à merveille à la harpe : la palette des nuances et des sons de notre instrument parvient à renforcer le potentiel poétique et sensoriel de cette musique.

Which harpists are your ‘models’?

Lily Laskine for her passion and energy, Marcel Grandjany for his musical intelligence and his sonority, Carlos Salzedo for his vision, and finally Nicolas Bochsa for his romantic destiny...

What place does teaching occupy in your career?

Like my own mentors Germaine Lorenzini, Isabelle Moretti and Christophe Truant, I wouldn’t feel complete if I didn’t teach. First of all, teaching means confronting myself: reconsidering the principles I apply to myself through the hands and the body of my student, whose nature is necessarily different from mine. The role of the teacher is that of a guide, someone who accompanies the pupil. That way the lesson provides an opportunity for reflection on technique, on music, an exchange beneficial to both parties, whose purpose is to give the student his or her autonomy in relation to the music and the instrument.

Your three favourite works for harp?

That’s a very hard question – a lot more than three works spring to mind spontaneously.
Let’s say: 
- the Glière Concerto, which gives a powerful image of the harp, and has a strong flavour of Russian Romantic music, even though it was written in the middle of the Soviet era! 
- Ravel’s Introduction & Allegro, the only solo work he wrote for harp, a true treasure of chamber music.
- Images by Marcel Tournier, a series of little impressionist gems that ideally exploit the possibilities of the instrument, and show great sensitivity.

What would you like people to say about you?

That I defended and I hope helped to promote the harp, gave the general public a chance to take a closer interest in it, and managed to inspire future generations of harpists.

Tell us something people don’t know about you.

I love to cook. I can sometimes spend whole afternoons in the kitchen preparing dishes to share with my loved ones! If I hadn’t had a musical vocation, I would certainly have tried to be a chef. I’m also a big fan of video games. For me, it’s an art form like the cinema, and to participate in a well-made scenario, in an original graphic universe accompanied by good music, is always a real pleasure.

[...]