Professional musicians often have a hobby they take as seriously as their music: photography, cycling, collecting, social work and so on. Italian cellist Enrico Dindo's? It's music.
Well, to clarify, it is a different state of music. The acclaimed soloist making his debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony this weekend explains it this way:
"When I want to relax I just play," he says from his home near Milan. "I relax my brain and let my fingers go and keep my heart completely open. I can play just for fun. When I know I have to practice, I open my brain again and get to know the composer and go inside the music. For me to play music is the most important and wonderful thing to do. I am so lucky to do for a job my favorite thing."
That is not to say that performing another's music is servile. In the performing arts, the artist is part of the process that becomes the work, even in a composition by Shostakovich, so identified with a struggle with Stalin's Soviet Union. Mr. Dindo will solo in Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 2, with Dvorak's Symphony No. 7 completing the program.
"When you play this concerto you must have a lot of imagination," says Mr. Dindo, 47. "When we play music we have to know something about the composer; we have to study his music, even what music they heard. It is impossible to play Shostakovich's music without feeling that Russian environment. When I close my eyes I transport myself there, but I transport me: my vibrato, my hands, my language."
His understanding of the work leaped when work's dedicatee, Mstislav Rostropovich, talked to him about it. Actually, sang about it. "I remember when Slava sang these songs in front of me, and it was amazing to hear the words to this music. You can almost dance the second movement."
For Mr. Dindo, getting time with Rostropovich was the lion's share of the prize he received from winning the Rostropovich competition in Paris in 1997. The elder cellist, who died in 2007, said Mr. Dindo had "exceptional qualities, a complete artist and a formed musician, with an extraordinary sound which flows as a splendid Italian voice."
Mr. Dindo stood out as a "formed" musician because he was older and more experienced than most of the contestants. He was already the principal cellist in the prestigious Teatro La Scala orchestra. Upon graduating from the Verdi Conservatory of Music in Turin, the then 22-year-old Mr. Dindo did the near impossible: won the principal cello chair (in 1987) in its orchestra.
He loved the atmosphere and music-making and remained there for 11 years. "But after 10 years I started to think I could maybe search for something more. That was difficult for me to decide to leave the orchestra. I had a sure job. But I knew I had to do something strong, to go seriously in another way."
It wasn't just that he was older than the other contestants -- he had nothing to lose and took a novel approach to the competition. "When I arrived it was like a nightmare to me," he says. "I was the oldest . Everyone was young and aggressive and very well-prepared. My preparation was at the last moment since I had finished my season just one month before. I decided not to play a competition but to play three concerts -- just make music. I felt if I challenge I will lose -- I cannot fight.
"Perhaps that is why I won."