Geoffrey Gartner is a Sydney-based performer who specialises in chamber music and works for solo cello. He performs a repertoire extending from the baroque to the newest works of today, many of which have been written for him.
Always the versatile musician, Geoffrey also conducts, plays piano and loves singing choral communion at St Mark’s, Darling Point. He is a product of Sydney Conservatorium and University of California San Diego.
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We asked Geoffrey a few questions
How old were you when you decided to be a musician and what led you the instrument(s) you now play?
I started taking piano lessons from my grandmother when I was about ten years old. I quickly became obsessed by music. There was little doubt in my mind that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was desperate to be a part of the school orchestra but knew that I would have to take up an orchestral instrument. A couple of years later the headmaster announced at assembly there were not enough cellos in the school orchestra; free cello lessons were being offered to interested students. I thought, “oh well, cello it is then.” I began lessons and loved it. Cut to thirty years later…
When you’re not rehearsing/performing/teaching, where are you most likely to be?
At home or the gym. In addition to my practice regime I spend a lot of time in front of my computer editing articles and dissertations. With such a sedentary work life, my daily gym routine is very important and I hate to miss a session. Being very tall means I have to look after my body more than most… I already have one titanium disc in my spine, I don’t want another!
If there weren’t external factors involved, how long do you think a concert should go for?
There is no one ideal length. Good concert programming is all about balance. As a student at the University of California San Diego the first performance in which I participated was a work by La Monte Young that went for twelve hours! It was a revelatory experience. That said, I think many performers jam too much music into their programs. In many cases the old adage of less is more holds true.
When should we clap?
At the end of the piece! Concerts are two-way affairs, and the give and take with my listeners is different at every concert. Their reaction is a vital part of the performance. However, when it comes to the performance of instrumental music I am not a fan of applause between movements. Silence is one of the most expressive elements of music, yet its importance is frequently overlooked. In the case of a big sonata or suite silence is the glue that holds the movements together. I love building on the audience’s sense of expectation at such moments: I can create an entirely different mood and ratchet up the tension with an intense silence.