Bruno Philippe: Sky’s the limit

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This month, young French cellist Bruno Philippe releases his first album as an official Harmonia Mundi artist. He chats with Charlotte Gardner about the merits of gut strings, old instruments versus new ones, inspirational teachers, his public image – and leaving behind the competition circuit to focus on real life

‘Never lose the first impression that has moved you.’ So said the French 19th-century landscape painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot once upon a time, and his words have been feeling both wonderfully relevant and wonderfully inadequate as I’ve mulled over my first two encounters with Bruno Philippe.The first of these took place one year ago at Switzerland’s Sommets Musicaux de Gstaad festival, and everything about it was big and joyous: a recital in which he was partnered by pianist Jérôme Ducros whose central performance of the Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata was of such truthful passion and beauty that it prompted two involuntary mid-work rounds of applause from an audience unable to help themselves; then the warmest and most merry of interviews over which a glowing Philippe – on a complete post-concert high, with cigarette in one waving hand and a pint in the other – revealed he has an opinion worth hearing on pretty much everything.

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