In Conversation with cellist Alex Ciulin

Alex Ciulin with cello

In Conversation with Alex Ciulin

On Saturday 1 July the outstanding young musicians of Junior Guildhall Symphony Orchestra return to the Milton Court stage under the baton of Julian Clayton.

The programme includes Dvořák’s famous Cello Concerto - one of the most beloved pieces in the instrument’s repertoire -  performed by soloist Alex Ciulin, winner of the 2019 Junior Guildhall Lutine Prize. 

Ahead of the concert, Alex spoke to us to tell us more about how he came to study at Junior Guildhall, and why he's excited to be performing this piece:

"I was born in Iasi, Romania and began to play the cello at the age of six. I studied at the Octav Bancila Music School in Iasi with Professor Baciu. One day, Rosie Whitfield (former Director of Music at Whitgift School, and now Head of Junior Guildhall) came to hear me play and offered me the opportunity to visit the UK and to take part in the Whitgift International Music Competition. I won a full boarding scholarship to the school and moved to the UK at the age of 13. The Whitgift Foundation funded my schooling and I am eternally grateful to them, Rosie and the former Headmaster, Dr Christopher Barnett MBE for helping me.

As part of this wonderful opportunity, Rosie encouraged me to apply to the Junior Guildhall and suggested it was the best junior conservatoire for me - and I was successful. Music was so outstanding at the School that I had numerous opportunities to perform under her guidance and travelled extensively performing with the orchestra as a soloist. But to have the addition of a specialist Saturday music school as well was something quite remarkable.

At Whitgift, we played for audiences ranging from local primary school students to ambassadors and members of the Royal Family, in London’s premier concert venues. In March 2016 I performed Elgar’s Cello Concerto with the Whitgift Chamber Orchestra as part of the ‘Remembering 1916’ Exhibition at Whitgift School. I also performed the Elgar in the Teatro Olympia in Italy, and San Jose, Costa Rica.  

This experience gave me added confidence in my playing and so to perform the Dvořák with Junior Guildhall’s flagship orchestra is a huge privilege and pleasure for me. I have listened to so many recordings of this concerto and worked hard under the guidance of my teacher John Myerscough. This opportunity was offered to me following my success in 2019 Lutine Prize, but sadly the pandemic has prevented me from performing it sooner. I have learned so much since that time so I am hoping the wait will have been worth it.

Digging deeper into the history of the concerto gave me a better understanding of how to approach it practically and emotionally. Working with the conductor to achieve everything I am hoping for has been an incredible learning curve and I trust I can do it justice on 1 July. The orchestra have been so friendly and so encouraging but, of course, they are Junior Guildhall students so this is what I would expect.

I think this will be a very special occasion as I am joined by my mother Carmen, who is travelling from Iasi to hear me play. There is much to celebrate in performing this concerto and it is a confirmation of the joy and lasting friendships created through the love of music. I know this will be a cherished memory for me and my family, and I am so grateful to all those who have helped me on my journey thus far.

I do hope that this article might encourage other young students to take up the cello and study music. Why not come and see the concerto on Saturday 1 July in Milton Court – it is live music that ignites the fire to start, and to carry on working when things get tough."

Alex Ciulin performs Dvořák’s Cello Concerto on Saturday 1 July in Milton Court Concert Hall with the Junior Guildhall Symphony Orchestra. Last few remaining tickets are available here