Timothy Landauer will perform as guest cellist

February 17, 1999

Tim LandauerBy KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

Cellist Timothy Landauer was born in Shanghai, China, the son of musicians. He took his first cello lesson from his cellist father, making music with a Western instrument when Western music was forbidden in communist China.

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The 35-year-old cellist says it was an ironic situation. Playing music was not encouraged; it was considered bourgeois. At the same time, being a musician was the best profession because those in power wanted music written as propaganda.

"We all had to play that music," Landauer says.

Landauer's step-grandfather, a German scientist, had fled to China before World War II. After the war, he worked for the United Nations, and when the communists came into power, he fled to Taiwan - "the other China," Landauer says. "That made it quite difficult for my father," Landauer says.


Between 1966 and 1976, it eventually got better, Landauer says.

When the Boston Symphony visited in 1978 or 1979, Landauer and the Chinese musicians played Haydn's "Cello Concerto in C Major," but it was different from the version he will play with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra this weekend, the one widely known in the West.

The version he knew had existed in the communist bloc countries of eastern Europe in the late 1940s. Mstislav Rostropovich and others had recorded it, and Chinese musicians played it, too.

The Americans were incredulous, according to Landauer. It was the first time they heard the concerto played the way the Chinese played it.

Western music is no longer "forbidden fruit" for Timothy Landauer. He came to the United States in 1980 by way of a seminar and the Gregor Piatigorsky competition. He won, which allowed him to emigrate a couple of years sooner, he says.

Landauer is principal cellist at the Pacific Symphony Orchestra. He says he really enjoys working with Edward Cumming, who was that symphony's assistant conductor from 1993 to 1996. Landauer describes Cumming as witty and says he really likes his programming. Being assistant conductor is a tough job; Landauer compares it to being vice president of the United States.

Landauer and Cumming will be working together again this weekend. They will play the Western version of Haydn's "Concerto in C Major."

"It's a very joyous concerto," Landauer says.

Timothy Landauer's appearance with MSO is made possible by Dr. and Mrs. George Comstock as a memorial to the doctor's late sister, cellist Ruth Comstock Dunlap.

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