Yael Rubinstein was born in Israel and currently lives in Boston. She joined the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 2005 where she plays the cello.
How did you start playing the cello?
When I was five years old, my brother and I were taken to a children’s concert. On the program was ‘The Carnival of Animals’ by C. Saint Sans. After hearing the cello play, I fell in love with its sounds and colors and I asked for a cello. My mother thought it a passing fancy and said “No” because I was already learning the piano. However after a whole year of asking repeatedly for a cello she broke down, and I finally got my first cello. I have been playing ever since.
Is there an interesting story behind your instrument?
I do not have an instrument of my own, but currently I’m lucky to be able to play on a borrowed old French instrument. Its maker is unknown and it had rough life. However it has a wide range of colors which I enjoy exploring.
What are the most important traits to have as a musician?
You need to be passionate about music as well as enjoy thoughtful, educated music making. It is also important to have an eagerness and determination to listen, learn and grow as a musician.
What has been the most rewarding performance with the Divan?
Our last concert of Brahm’s German Requiem was especially rewarding. On top of the piece being especially beautiful (and a favorite of mine), we were fortunate enough to play with Cecilia Bartoli and René Pape joined by the Vienna Singverein. Cecilia Bartoli brought such inspiring, heart wrenching beauty to the piece. Her singing was full of poetic beauty and there were moments in which the eternal didn’t feel so far away.
I also remember the concert that took place in Ramallah. The long journey and the nervousness (which was not at all musical) gave a very different energy to the whole evening. It felt as if we were doing something different, something new. Because of music, both the orchestra and the audience had an experience they would never had had otherwise.
Outside of music, what inspires you?
Many different things can inspire me. It can be a work of art, a book, a landscape or time shared with people who are great friends.
I have few works of art that I love and never turn down a chance to go and see them. One is a painting by Picasso which can be seen in the MOMA. It features a horse and a young boy. The boy seems to be leading the horse along. However, there are no reins and the leading is done entirely by trust. I love that idea.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I cannot hear in my left ear.
Tell us what it is like to work with Maestro Daniel Barenboim.
It is a powerful experience to work with a musician of such magnitude. On top of his insightful, deep, well reasoned understanding of the music, it is fascinating to see how he is able to take apart complex pieces of music from Schoenberg to Beethoven, make the parts coherent to the entire orchestra, and then reassemble them into a moving performance. The process transforms and betters all musicians who get to work with him.