United States Have Cello, Will Travel: A Chat with Carmine Miranda
Born in Venezuela, Carmine Miranda began his musical studies at the age of seven. He studied cello in the Latin-American Academy of Violoncello, and at the Simon Bolivar Conservatory of Music, the institution that spawned the famous El Sistema. He later became a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela and of the Orchestra of Beethoven under the direction of Giuseppe Sinoppoli. Miranda then continued his studies in the United States.
Miranda’s boyish good looks hide behind them a musician of protean interpretive and technical gifts. I met up with him in the sylvan setting of Cincinnati’s Peterloon Estate to chat about the upcoming release of his recording of 12 Caprices for cello by the Italian composer Alfredo Piatti (1802-1901).
Rafael de Acha: Carmine, your English is perfectly good, but I know that you were born in Venezuela, and that your first language was Spanish. Or should I say, “Italian”? So, English, Spanish, Italian…what should it be in our interview?
Carmine Miranda: We can do it in English.
RDA: In your very insightful liner notes, you mention that you hope to see these pieces by the admittedly-obscure Alfredo Piatti enter the standard concert repertoire for your instrument. Why, in your opinion, have they not made that leap from a specialized area of the repertory to their rightful place on the concert stage?
CM: I would not say that Alfredo Piatti is obscure among serious cellists and in the academic world; however, I think that the general public might not be completely aware of his works and especially the 12 Caprices. In my opinion, the reason why these works have not made a leap to popularity and on to the concert stage is due to their technical difficulty. These works have been traditionally treated as technical exercises more than concert pieces. This is not to say that some cellists have not played them on stage at some point, but overall the Piatti 12 Caprices are certainly not played enough when compared say, to the Bach Cello Suites.
RDA: Carmine, you are about to receive your DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts degree) from CCM (the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music.) What do you foresee as the next step in your musical journey? More specifically, what are your plans as you leave the safety net and nest of one of America’s great conservatories and embark on a professional career, one that has already begun even while you finish up your degree?
CM: As long as audiences keep accepting my playing and classical music remains alive in the hearts of people, I hope that I can continue performing.
RDA: Your website lists several mentors who have had an influence on you as a musician. Among those is there one who still remains a trusted adviser and objective listener to this day?
CM: Every single one of my mentors has had an everlasting impression on my playing and life. Yehuda Hanani has been my most trusted adviser and the person with whom I have spent the most time working. Ultimately, although mentorship is important in the development of a performer, it’s up to the individual to become his or her own best listener, critic and teacher.
RDA: Are you open to the possibilities of playing in an orchestra or becoming part of a string quartet…or even teaching?
CM: For the longest time my main focus has been on the solo and chamber fields of classical music, however I would not mind having a studio of my own so that I can impart the knowledge that I have acquired to a younger generation.
RDA: Much of the success of a career as a classical musician is due to happenstance, no doubt, but also to being in the right place at the right time. That said, do you have plans to relocate from your current home in Cincinnati to another city?
CM: The life of a musician is at the mercy of time and place, for this reason I am open to go wherever the universe takes me.
RDA: Your CD was recorded in Cincinnati (to be released by a company in New Hampshire). In your opinion, does that augur well for the future of classical music in this city?
CM: That’s a very difficult question… Many cities across the United States are known for their classical music programs, but I think that everything is changing and that it all is a matter of perception. I think Cincinnati has great variety when it comes to classical music, but its future will depend on whether the general public remains interested in this art from.
RDA: Do you see a positive future for classical music in our country (and I know that is a complicated question)?
CM: I think classical music can have a future not only in the United States but all over the world if we, musicians can focus on the music itself, conveying emotions and connecting to the public, instead of focusing our attention on a pretty dress, or nicely polished shoes or silly stage bows. Music, regardless of its genre is supposed to be fun and a means of escaping the ordinary aspects of life. Classical music does not belong in a museum or to a certain class of people, but to the hearts and needs of humanity at large. We now live in a different age, where people are growing less interested in old fashioned labels and in search of honest performances.
RDA: I don’t want to end our conversation without thanking you and giving you a “thumbs-up” for your enterprise as a musician. That you play beautifully is beyond question, but to do the research you have done, unearthing these gems by a relatively obscure composer and then recording them is deserving of more praise than I can give you now. I hope that more success and future engagements come your way, Carmine. In bocca al lupo!
CM: Crepi il lupo!
Rafael de Acha