It was hardly a straightforward start to his new role at the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s principal flautist for Spanish-born André Cebrián. "I’d arranged to move to Scotland in March 2020, but it ended up being the week after the pandemic started,” he explains. “I’d been to Scotland a few weeks before to play with the SCO, and I took the opportunity to look for a flat and organise everything. And then I couldn’t move, so it fell through. I was stuck in Spain, and even there, my flat contract finished, so I had to move in with a friend.”
Not the best introduction to life in Scotland, nor the best beginning to a relationship with the SCO – though Cebrián appreciated the opportunities and contact the Orchestra offered. One notable online contribution was an ambitious multi-flute arrangement of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, recorded in Spain during the depths of lockdown and still available on the SCO’s website. “It took me hours to put together!” he remembers. “I didn’t know anything about the software before doing it, but now, of course, just about every musician knows how to record themselves.”
Now, however, Cebrián is settled in Scotland, and a regular fixture in SCO concerts. And it’s just as well that travel is inching back towards normality, because he’s now able again to teach and perform internationally. “I also have a wind quintet, the Azahar Ensemble, and we play a lot right across Europe. For me, it’s lovely to be able to combine orchestral playing with chamber work in the quintet. But it’s not easy to juggle the two sometimes – we play around 25 concerts per season in Europe.” Which often means, he says, weekdays in Scotland and weekends elsewhere. “For example, this weekend we have a quintet concert at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, so I’m playing with the SCO on Friday, then on Saturday I travel to Germany and we rehearse, concert on Sunday, then back to Scotland on Monday.”
He’s also in demand as a teacher, coaching flute students at the Fundación Barenboim-Said in Seville. “It’s about training students to go into orchestral work. If I’m ever asked whether I prefer playing or teaching, I say I just can’t imagine one without the other. It becomes like a cycle: I learn a lot from my students, which I can apply in my own concerts, and then share that experience with my students again.”
For his Scotsman Sessions performance, Cebrián has chosen the brief solo flute piece Jade by French composer Pierre-Octave Ferroud. “There’s a lot of French repertoire for flute,” he says, “I think more than half of the pieces I play are by French composers. But I really enjoy this piece. Ferroud wrote it when he was only about 21, and he was fascinated by the new sounds of Asia. It reminded me of when the SCO played with Anoushka Shankar at Celtic Connections earlier in the year. We were trying to connect world music with classical music, as if we were doing something new, but there were composers doing similar things about 100 years ago.”
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