One of the first things you notice about Tim Hugh's playing is his energy. Not surprisingly then, he says he hates lying in bed. Sometimes he'll get up early and his best practice is all done by 9am. When he's not playing the cello he might be boating, fishing, walking, biking, gardening or swimming.
We recently saw Tim Hugh leading the cello section at a LSO children's concert. The orchestra was playing a piece by the Argentinian composer Ginastera and they were asked to stand up and sit down every time they played a particular chord (a bit like playing musical bumps). Tim Hugh was the only cellist to attempt it and he managed it without missing a note! You could try it out in your cello practice tomorrow - but don't tell anyone it was our idea!
As well as being Principal Cellist of the LSO, Tim Hugh has a career as a soloist which means that he plays either on his own or with an orchestra as the soloist in a cello concerto. We recently heard him give wonderful concerts at the Wigmore Hall in London and at the Magdalen Auditorium in Oxford.
littlecellist.com caught up with Tim Hugh on his way to the Edinburgh Festival last summer. "This morning up at 6.45am, train to Edinburgh, rehearsal in the afternoon, concert till 10.30pm, practise in breaks. Often it's like that." Then he was off to play with the LSO at the BBC Proms in London, followed by three days in Gstaad, Switerland. He told us, "As a musician I have travelled so much in my life - all over the globe - and that is a fantastic experience and a privilege."
What is the most difficult piece you've ever played?
The most difficult piece I've ever played is a concerto by the Bulgarian composer Emil Tabakov. We recorded it last year for Naxos but it hasn't been released yet. It's 45 minutes long and some passages are so high and written across the strings that I could hardly get my fingers close enough. Also I had to make vocalisations (sounds with my voice) while I was playing and so did the orchestra.
What's your favourite piece of cello music?
I think the Kodály solo sonata is my favourite piece. It's also very difficult but I learnt it when I was 17 and it's in my blood. The G and C strings are tuned down a semitone giving tremendous resonance to the cello. (You can hear Tim Hugh play Kodály's Sonata for Solo Cello on his CD 'Hands on Heart', Naim label.)
Which cellists do you admire?
The cellists I admire start most importantly with Slava Rostropovich with whom I worked many times when he came to conduct the LSO. He was one of the most inspiring musicians I've ever known.
I studied with Jacqueline du Pré when she was in her wheelchair and still quite young. Her spirit was still very evident despite her illness and that is what made her so unique.
I admire the Norwegian cellist Truls Mřrk. He has a formidable technique and tremendous musical power and focus.
Tim Hugh first studied medicine at Cambridge (to become a doctor!) before deciding to be a cellist.