Behind the ScORe

A Candid Conversation with Catalin

Our September guest artist, international superstar Catalin Rotaru, sat down for a brief interview with SOR Artistic Director Maria Larionoff and shared some of his musical adventures and thoughts on life.

ML: Was double bass your first instrument, and how old were you when you began taking lessons?

CR: I was about twelve years old when I began taking lessons, and yes, the bass was my first musical instrument. I do believe in destiny—that I came into this lifetime to do this on the planet. The universe arranges everything in your life, so you just follow the course that is pre-set. That is my personal take!

ML: You play a lot of concerti written for other instruments—Haydn cello concerto, Mozart violin concerto #5, Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations, Paganini violin caprices (wow!!). How do you select the repertoire for your arrangements?

CR: This is connected to what we just discussed about pre-destination. You know, as I am driving, I will hear some tune on the radio, one of these beautiful classical concerti, or maybe I am at a music festival and I hear another colleague performing something, or I can simply be at school in the hallways and hear somebody practicing a certain piece. Usually, if one of those pieces really sticks in my head the first question that pops into my mind is—can I do that on the bass? This is 99.9% of how I chose these pieces. I simply grab the original part that the music was written for and try it on the bass. Most of the time it actually works! I think there were a couple of exceptions where it was unplayable on the bass, so I gave up.

ML: You tour and perform constantly all around the world. This summer I know your itinerary included Taiwan, Germany, Amsterdam, and Mexico, among other places. My husband, double bassist Barry Lieberman once said that traveling with a bass is like going on a vacation and taking your refrigerator with you! Can you tell us what it is like to constantly travel with your bass? Where are your favorite places to visit?

CR: Traveling with the bass is not an easy feat. Often airlines will give you a hard time—this happened especially at the beginning of my solo career. After I built up some frequent flyer miles with the airlines they stopped asking me questions—of course, after you fly so much with them, they kind of trust you! I always have my flight case with me (a bass trunk) and I always check it in. In a way, it’s better than cellists, who have to buy an extra ticket for their instrument. It’s a little cheaper for me but much more risky—twice so far in my life they broke the case and the bass! But again, it comes with the territory.

As far as my favorite places to travel, that is a really hard question for me to answer precisely, to pinpoint one location on this planet. I just simply love the planet and everywhere I go I try to see the beautiful sights of every single place. Of course, they are sometimes quite different from one another in political, social, economic and developmental respects. I try to look at the positive aspects because I think this is the way we all should approach life.

ML: I know you are an avid movie buff, especially sci-fi and fantasy. What else do you like to do in your free time?

CR: Yes, I do like sci-fi and fantasy movies! I would also say that when I am traveling, walking through airports or driving somewhere, I listen to classical music and also audiobooks. Since I was a kid I have been obsessed with two primary subjects: existence and extraterrestrial life. And not just a little bit interested, but really obsessed! I am trying constantly to find answers to these questions: Who are we? Why are we here? Where are we going? This is a passion of mine.

ML: Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Catalin—we are looking forward to hearing you play with SOR in September!