Young Artist Interview: Talking cello, composition and collaborations with cellist Thibault Blanchard-Dubois
Musicians’ Company Young Artist Thibault Blanchard-Dubois is an award-winning French cellist based in London. In addition to performing standard cello repertoire, Trinity Laban graduate Thibault mixes classical music, experimental-contemporary music, digital art and new technologies. We caught up with Thibault to find out more.
When did you begin playing the cello?
I started playing the cello when I was six years old at the Besançon Conservatoire in France. Both my parents, who are classical saxophonists, passed on their passion for music. I grew up in a musical environment, surrounded by music and concerts.
Who or what has been your biggest influence?
I wouldn’t say I only had one big influence. I became what I am thanks to different people and memorable events.
Firstly, Frédéric Borsarello. He was my cello/life teacher for many years during various summer courses and later more regularly in Paris during 2013 and 2014. In addition to teaching me the cello, he passed on his passion and knowledge for pedagogy. I had the chance to observe many lessons he gave in Paris, to be involved in the publication of his cello method, and to teach beside him during his cello courses. I have learnt so much from him, and am now, despite my relatively young age, confident in my teaching methods (even if I still have a lot to learn…!).
Secondly, David Cohen. David has been my cello teacher since 2014 and has helped me a lot with my cello playing but more importantly in ways of thinking about the music industry and how to approach the professional world. On top of being an incredible cellist, he is a real coach and his continuous and unfailing support has been and still is very important to me.
How would you define your musical style?
I would define myself as a multi-faceted artist. In addition to playing standard repertoire for competitions or recitals, I am exploring further what new technologies are offering in terms of creativity. I also spend much of my time thinking about how music could help younger generations and society more generally, as well as composing and ensuring I can convey my passion for my art.
You’ve shown you aren’t afraid to tackle social issues in your music. Tell us about your works ‘13/22’ and ‘Atom’?
These works have been composed by Eliott Delafosse, a young French composer. We started studying at the same time at Mons Royal Conservatory. We became friends and it seemed natural that we would start collaborating to compose new works for cello, adding electronics in at a latter stage. Eliott and I are both very sensitive to social issues and the environmental cause. We wanted to convey our ideas about society through music. We composed 13/22 in response to the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks of 2015 and 2016. This piece works to show that western European culture and other cultures can coexist. Justice and liberty are the two values that have inspired us.
What is your greatest musical accomplishment to date?
It is difficult to choose one specific accomplishment as there are many projects that I am proud of. I would say that feeling fulfilled and happy with the combination of everything I do is my biggest accomplishment, from working with younger generations, to performing and composing, organising and leading projects.
How do you go about creating new compositions?
Our society in every respect, poetry, and new technologies are three fields that inspire me. I then work to convey my feelings about these through music. Finding the concept of a new work is my starting point. When I have a clear structure of the concept, I start writing down the musical structure. By the end of the process the notes, rhythms, and harmonies are flowing on their own.
I am currently composing a piece for cello and soundtrack based on France Prešeren’s poetry. Prešeren was a romantic Slovene poet and I fell in love with the depth and sadness of his poetry. The relation between music and words, especially pronunciation and meaning, is very interesting. I am planning to release a video clip of this piece in April 2020.
Tell us about some of your collaborations
The most stable musical collaboration I have is with my pianist, Kyle Nash-Baker. We have performed many concerts during the last two years. It is always a pleasure to share the stage with a friend and make some great music together.
I am also co-leading a course in France with two friends (one conductor and one trumpet player). We are creating an original story and composing the original score which will be interpreted by the students at the end of the course. The staging of the story complements the narrative and musical dimensions of the creation. This enriching collaboration is very motivating, and it encourages me to develop even more ideas for the younger generations. I am also very pleased to say that, thanks to Concordia Foundation’s support, I am establishing a scholarship which will give two young cellists living in London the opportunity to come to France in July 2020 to participate in the course.
Lastly, I would like to talk about the CoLab Festival which occurs every year at Trinity Laban. I organised a Cello Ensemble gathering of students from all over Europe, and a project bringing together strings and percussion including Junior Trinity students, Jean-Sébastien Borsarello (principal timpanist of the National Orchestra of Toulouse) and a young and talented cellist from Finland. We managed to put together a one-hour performance in just a few days. This collaboration will remain an outstanding memory!
If you could invite three artists to dinner, who would they be?
Mstislav Rostropovich because in addition to being one of the greatest cellists ever, he was a politically engaged artist and defender of human rights.
Charles Baudelaire because I love his poetry and would love to talk with him about his era.
Vaslav Nijinsky to ask him how he managed to create the fascinating Rite of Spring choreography and to talk about the links between gesture and music.
What’s in your calendar this year?
The coming months are rather busy involving three competitions with my string quartet (The Barbirolli Competition, the Chamber Carne Trust Competition and the final of the Cavatina Competition at the Royal Academy of Music). I am also preparing video recordings for the Geneva International Competition. I will be performing my own arrangement of the Britten Cello Symphony for solo cello, string quintet, piano and percussion in June 2020. Next summer is filling up fast. I am undertaking the course I mentioned previously, the premiere of a new show ‘’Music and words’’ created in collaboration with my mother, and David Cohen’s festival in August during which I will be working on the production team as well as performing. I am working on my first album (release in 2021) comprising my own works and inspired by the Slovene poet Prešeren.
You can find out more about Thibault:
Interview by @suzywillmott.com