The man behind the music: Bruno Borralhinho
As a member of the Dresdner Philharmonic Orchestra and as Artistic Director of the Ensemble Mediterrain, Bruno Borralhinho is an esteemed Portuguese cellist. Performing internationally as a soloist with an orchestra, in solo recitals and with piano and chamber music, Bruno’s artistic offering also includes orchestral conducting. Having imparted his musical knowledge in masterclasses held in Portugal, Spain and Brazil, Amorim Fine Violins have had the pleasure of working with Bruno for over ten years.
We spoke to Bruno all about his cello playing, his conducting, and how he came to acquire three cellos from Luiz Amorim.
You have studied music since the age of twelve, what drew you to playing the cello?
“I started to study the cello quite late, at about 12 years old, so I had to work very quickly to achieve a certain playing level.
“The cello came into my life, not because I had heard some cellos before, or because I loved the instrument and its sound, but because my sister already played the piano, and she recommended the cello to me. It could have been a tuba or something else that she recommended, but I am actually very thankful to her it was the cello because it’s the best instrument in the world!
“Quite soon after I began playing, I realised it would be the perfect instrument for me and I am very glad I am a cellist.”
How did you come to develop a career in conducting as well as playing the cello?
“Conducting came much later into my life, it was around six years ago. It was a bit of a coincidence as it wasn’t planned! However, when I had the chance to conduct in a serious situation, I discovered something very, very special. I became curious, and this aspect of my career is developing well.
“Conducting kind of complements the cello too, because with conducting you can achieve many other things, different to when you’re playing the cello. With the cello, you have the ability to produce sound, which a conductor cannot directly do.
“So, I find it very interesting to have this balance in my life, and at the moment it’s really a perfect situation that I can combine both things, playing the cello and conducting.”
With such extensive experience as a musician, what advice do you have for the young, aspiring musicians of today?
“I think nowadays there really is no secret. You have to have the talent, but you also have to work a lot. This doesn’t mean you have to practice for ten hours a day though, sometimes two hours are enough. However, it is important that the time you invest in practising is with concentration, focus, and that you are really aware of what you are doing and learning.
“Practising for eight hours every day doesn’t necessarily work as well as focused and responsible practicing time.
“Of course, you also have to be surrounded by good teachers who motivate and inspire you. I had a lot of very good teachers from the very beginning, not only for the cello but also chamber music, orchestra and music theory. It is very important to have a good teacher and to be surrounded by the right people.”
“This also means having the right colleagues – if you make chamber music with people who are aiming to achieve the same goals as you and are as motivated to make music as you are, the work will be much better and you will learn a lot.
“So, it’s really important to be flexible in your learning and aim to learn a lot!”
Your 2016 recording dedicated to Portuguese music was considered the best of 2016 by voters in over 65 countries, after an international vote promoted by the Violincello Foundation. What a fantastic achievement! What inspires you the most about Portuguese music in particular?
“I have always had a tendency to promote Portuguese music (I’m Portuguese, of course). I went to live abroad in Germany at 18, and I always had a feeling that Portuguese music was almost forgotten.
“As a result, I have always felt obligated to promote it, to play it, and show it – not necessarily motivated by patriotism but because there is really very good, very interesting music all around the world that people just don’t know about.
“For me, it became a kind of mission to play as much Portuguese music, or conduct as much Portuguese music as I can because the more people who get to know it, the more they start to love it and play it as well. People come to me and say they have heard my CD or my performance and would like to play a Sonata or conduct a symphony, and I think Portuguese music deserves this recognition.
“It is a privilege and an honour to work as an ambassador of my own country, of the music of my own country, and the feedback has been great.”
Is there something about the cello that really captures the essence of Portuguese music?
“There is no special reason that the cello should be able to play Portuguese music more than any other instruments, although there is a very nice Portuguese repertoire for the cello.”
Having performed all over the world, how important is it to have a quality instrument when playing in concert venues?
“To have a good instrument is very important. For example, if you are a performer who plays frequently as a solo in an orchestra, it is imperative to have a cello with a big volume, allowing you to survive in a big concert hall with an orchestra behind you – especially as some works are unfairly written by the composers and are suited to a big set of instruments behind the solo cello.
“For chamber music, you probably don’t need an instrument with the largest volume, but it is important to have a good instrument that has good overtones and a flexible sound that matches the other instruments.
“It is also a very personal thing to decide which instrument is best for you. An instrument that for me is the finest in the world, may not say anything to the cellist sitting next to me.
“A good instrument is a must. At a certain point in your career, you have to acquire a good instrument so that you can really progress on your path.”
You have acquired three instruments from Amorim Fine Violins over the years, exchanging one cello for another. Your most recent purchase is the G.B. Rogeri cello crafted by Luiz in 2016, what have your experiences been with these instruments?
“The first instrument I had from Luiz Amorim, I bought in 2009. I was in Curitiba in Brazil, teaching a masterclass and playing some cello music concerts. I met Luiz almost by coincidence, and he showed me a cello that I liked very much, and I bought it. This was the Domenico Montagnana copy, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, 1739 made in 2005.
“Then for the second cello, I was in Brazil again in 2014 and Luiz had two cellos ready. We had already been in contact as one of the cellos was another Montagnana model. However, I came to prefer the Matteo Goffriller model made in 2014, instead, so I bought that one too!
“My latest purchase was in 2017. Luiz was in Germany and brought me the cello I have now, which is the G.B. Rogeri model, made in 2016. I fell in love again, and this is now the third instrument I have had from Luiz.
“I must say I have always been very happy with all of the instruments I have had from Luiz. I think maybe because I had previously played on a real Montagnana, I was really surprised at how the first Montagnana cello copy I had from Luiz was so similar in sound. It’s difficult to explain, you’d have to listen to it to feel it.
“I have been in contact with Luiz since I first acquired a cello from him. I must say I’m already afraid that we meet again soon and he has a cello in his hand, because I might have to buy a fourth one!”
How did you come to hear about the work of Luiz Amorim at Amorim Fine Violins?
“I didn’t know of Luiz until we first met in 2009, but I was really surprised and very impressed with his great work, and since then, we have of course been in touch.
“Once, I was talking with a friend, a violaist, and he told me he had a bow from Brazil, and we discovered that both my cello and his bow were from Luiz. I think Luiz’s reputation is getting higher and higher, and I’m very happy for him.
“I’m very happy to see more and more of Luiz’s instruments and bows around me, and I’m sure in the future there will be even more.
“The cellos by Luiz are really very good instruments which fit into my various playing environments, whether it’s chamber music, solo or orchestra, so it’s great to have these instruments and I’m very happy with them.”
Watch the video above to see more from Bruno Borralhinho.
See below Bruno Borralhinho with the three cellos by Luiz Amorim.