An afternoon with Daniel Müller-Schott
As a young cellist, Daniel Muller-Schott’s former teacher, Heinrich Schiff, played the original Sleeping Beauty cello by Domenico Montagnana. Using the cello frequently as his student, Schott soon developed a connection with the cello, recently commissioning Luiz Amorim for his very own copy. We caught up with Daniel at his home in Munich, exploring the beauty of the cello and his fascination with the Montagnana piece.
Was there a specific moment that sparked your interest in playing the cello?
“I strongly remember my Mother taking me to orchestra rehearsals as a child, trying to create some kind of fascination in an instrument. It so happened that I was sitting in Munich, in a cello rehearsal, and Schumann was being played. I was only five years old, but I was just overwhelmed by the beauty of the sound, the warmth and the registers of the cello. You are hugging the instrument, which was also very appealing to me.
“That was the moment when I wanted to learn the cello, and I haven’t regretted it since.”
You are one of the most sought-after cellists in the world, being heard on all the great international concert stages. What is it about the cello that complements your performances?
“The instrument not only brings a lot of warmth, but also bass support and clarity to the sound. It gives some kind of personal singing voice to the music and is something special to work with. Some instruments, they have more brightness, but for me (which is why I have always been drawn to the Venetian instruments), I liked the warm yet very powerful sound of the cello.
“A lot of my concerts are with big symphony orchestras, so I need that powerful sound projection to cut through.”
How did you develop such a strong connection with the Sleeping Beauty cello?
“Heinrich Schiff, an Australian cellist who unfortunately recently passed, had this incredibly beautiful cello that he acquired when I began learning as one of his students. It was called the Sleeping Beauty Montagnana cello, and as a student I got to play it very often.”
How did your experience with another client’s Luiz Amorim copy of the Montagnana cello ignite your interest in having your own?
“Many years after learning with Heinrich Schiff, I played a concert in Brazil with an orchestra in São Paulo and Belo Horizonte. I came across the solo cellist of the orchestra and I looked at his cello. I immediately felt I had some kind of connection with the cello, and it was one of Luiz Amorim’s copies, a copy of the exact cello that I used to play in Vienna, the Montagnana cello. I was fascinated by it.
“After talking to the cellist, this is how I came in touch with Luiz, asking him to make another copy of this beautiful Montagnana cello for myself.”
You now own your very own Luiz Amorim cello, how does it compare to the original Montagnana you played as a student?
“I feel this Luiz Amorim copy is the perfect mix of the shape and appearance of the original cello, which is made very much like the original with the beautiful red/brown varnish. If you look at the back, you can see the three-dimensional qualities in the structure of the wood and the varnish, and I think that’s really appealing.”
Do you grow with the cello, or does the cello grow with you?
“I feel that it’s really something you can grow with as a musician, I can’t even predict where the journey goes because it really is a step-by-step process over many years. You’re working with the instrument, living with the instrument, the instrument changes and you change. So to speak, there is inspiration from both sides, so that’s certainly something to look forward to.
“People always say the cello is the voice that relates to the human voice the most, and I think that’s very true. When you play the instrument, you can feel everything. It’s a huge physical sensation and an experience in itself.”
Watch the video above to see more from our visit with Daniel Müller-Schott.