Hitting the right note: Gorleston's Maxim Calver returns to Norfolk for a special concert
PUBLISHED: 16:52 06 November 2019 | UPDATED: 18:01 06 November 2019
© Greg Milner, All Rights Reserved
Maxim Calver was playing string instruments before most of us could read a line from the simplest book and by the time he was eight he'd won a place at one of the world's most prestigious music schools. Now the 19-year-old cellist is returning to Norfolk for a special concert.
He spends most of his days with a 113-year-old who is always by his side and helps him create musical magic.
Maxim Calver's cello was made by Italian Alberto Aloysius Blanchi in 1906 and is his constant companion in a life dedicated to music which has seen him compete at the highest levels in Britain and appear on stages across the world. Now 19-year-old Max from Gorleston-on-Sea is returning to Norfolk for a special concert and he can't wait.
"I just love the cello, the high notes are close to the human voice but it can also be low. It's perfectly balanced," said Max, who will play at The Assembly House on November 14 as part of the Assembly House Classical lunchtime concert series.
"It will be so nice to be playing in Norfolk and to be close to home. I come back often, but to play in Norwich will be really special."
The talented teenager is from a musical family: his mother Stella is a music teacher, his father Ian plays the guitar and his sister Evie is a student at The Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey, one of five musical schools for school-age children which aims to give pupils the best musical education possible.
Max started to play the cello when he was four-years-old and had lessons for around five years while he was a pupil at Corton Primary School. He'd actually picked up a violin a few months before he fell in love with the cello, but soon realised his true calling.
At the tender age of eight and after a pretty nerve-wracking audition, he became a boarding student at the same school his sister attends now. When he joined, he was the third youngest student at the school where every pupil is chosen for their exceptional musical ability.
"As you can imagine, it was hard at first, but it really helps if you absolutely love what you do because you want to learn how to be better and a music school is the place to do it," said Max, who studied for 10 years with cellist Thomas Carroll, a renowned musician who himself studied at the Surrey school, which was founded by the celebrated violinist in 1963.
"It is intensive and you have to work hard, but playing the cello has never really felt like work to me because it's what I love to do. I think it also means that I learned how to be independent a lot earlier than most children because I needed to figure out how to do things myself.
"I saw my parents every weekend at the beginning and I am sure it was harder for them than it was for me - they'd drive to get me and take me home every weekend to Gorleston and I'd see my friends and just do all the normal things that any kid does. They'd write to me all the time during the week and come to as many of the concerts I did as possible, too."
There were some fairly breathtaking highlights to being a pupil at such a prestigious school: he played privately for Julian Lloyd-Webber and met the award-winning British cellist Natalie Clein and, of course, got to perform on the famous Menuhin stage.
"I loved my time at the school - it's a privilege to be there and you are aware of the chance that you have been given, but at the same time I was just a normal school kid who did the same stuff that everyone does. I loved coming home to Gorleston at weekends and catching up with all my old friends, too," he said.
"If this is the life that you choose, you are also choosing the hours of practicing and the commitment to your instrument. When I took part in BBC Young Musician, I was also taking A levels in music and English, and it's tough. But there is nothing in the world that I'd rather do."
Last year, Maxim made his concerto debut in Symphony Hall in Birmingham as part of the Grand Final of BBC Young Musician 2018. His performance of Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and BBC 4, was praised for its 'natural ease' and 'emotional lyricism'. Earlier in the competition he won the Strings Category Final performing works by Lutoslawski, Brahms and Stravinsky.
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Other career highlights have included a performance of Brahms' Double Concerto in Cadogan Hall, London with Tianyou Ma (finalist of the International Menuhin Violin Competition 2018) and recitals throughout the UK and Guernsey. Maxim has also performed at many prestigious venues including Wigmore Hall, the Royal Festival Hall and BOZAR in Brussels.
His festival appearances include the Gstaad Menuhin Festival in Switzerland, Southwold Arts Festival and the Wimbledon International Festival, where his performance of Delius' cello sonata was singled out for its "depth of tone and passionate intensity".
The young musician is now a student at the Royal College of Music with Professor Melissa Phelps, and is a Hargreaves and Ball Trust Scholar supported by a Herbert Howells and Thomas Fielden Scholarship and also benefitted from the Young Classical Artists Trust's support after his time in the BBC competition.
"I realise just how lucky I am because I have been so well supported with my music," said Max, "lots of other young people aren't as lucky because music is disappearing from the curriculum and that's such a shame because it's such a wonderful addition to everyone's life.
"Music enriches people's lives and can offer so much to people. It can change your mood in minutes - I just wish there were more opportunities for young people to learn how to play instruments or at least have the opportunity to try. It's something I feel very passionate about."
Max will be performing with pianist Gorka Plada Girón and playing a programme which includes Bach's Cello Suite no1 and Rachmaninoff's Cello Sonata Op 19. The concert will begin at 1pm. Next month, Max's fellow BBC Young Musician of the Year 2018 competitor, pianist Lauren Zhang will be at The Assembly House for the lunchtime concert on December 12.
Max will be home for Christmas before returning to the Royal College to continue his studies. Will there be any family concerts while he is back in Gorleston? "Evie and I have been known to put on little concerts at home," Max admits, "but that was a long time ago and it's been even longer since we've persuaded Dad to join in!"
* Find out more about the lunchtime concert series and buy tickets at www.assemblyhouseclassical.co.uk or call 07786 940878.