In Conversation with Andrei Ionita – 2015 Tchaikovsky Competition Gold Medalist




Andrei Ionita - Credit: mkiartists

Andrei Ionita - Credit: mkiartists


Andrei Ionita has been dazzling audiences even before he won first prize  in the cello division of the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition. Between 2009-2014 he earned top prizes at the David Popper International Cello Competition, the Aram Khatchaturian International Competition and finished second at the Grand Prix Emanuel Feuermann and ARD Music Competiton – an awesome accomplishment.

Ionita’s career is skyrocketing and the 24 year-old artist is in demand as soloist and chamber musician. His busy schedule includes debuts with the Tokyo Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, MDR Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony and St. Petersburg Philharmonic. He collaborates with such crème de la crème musicians as Gidon Kramer, Christian Tetzlaff, Valery Gergiev and Mikhail Pletnev.

Ionita received the BBC New Generation Artist award and Mitsuko Uchida invited him to participate in the Marlboro Music Festival. Of course, he has performed at many other top-notch festivals including Verbier, Schleswig-Holstein, Kissinger Sommer and Cayman Arts – as well as performing at Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall in April of this year with pianist Naoko Sonoda in a program that included the Shostakovich cello sonata 

Ionita was born in Bucharest, Romania and studied with Ani-Marie Paladi at the Iosif Sava School of Music before continuing with Jens Peter Maintz at Berlin’s University of the Arts. His upcoming concerts during the 2018-2019 season include appearances with the BBC Philharmonic in Haydn’s concerto No. 1 and Dvorak’s concerto Op. 104, the Danish National Symphony under Yuri Temirkanov (again in Dvorak’s Op. 104) and a chamber music recital at Zurich’s Tonhalle Maag on November 26 with clarinetist Pablo Barragan and pianist Juan Perez Floristan.

He plays a 1671 Giovanni Battista Rogeri cello, on loan from Germany’s Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben foundation.

Andrei Ionita talks about his career with Editor Leonne Lewis.

You studied in Bucharest with Ani-Marie Paladi and continued with Jens Peter Maintz in Berlin, who was assistent to David Geringas. Could you describe their teaching approach?

Jens Peter Maintz, or JP as we like to call him, has been one of David Geringas’ favorite students. In fact, Mr. Geringas even describes me as his “musical grandson.” I learned so many things from Maintz about style and historically accurate interpretations. But I already came to Berlin almost fully realized all due to Ms. Paladi, my amazing teacher in Bucharest. In addition to being an incredible mentor, she taught me about a natural and refined approach to the instrument and to music.

During the Tchaikovsky Competition, both these teachers were texting and giving me advice for every single round. They both got sucked into the competition fever and were there for me at every moment. I’ve been extremely lucky to have studied with them. Actually, I’m still enrolled in school in Berlin and play for Jens Peter Maintz once in a while. It’s very important to receive objective advice from someone who knows you well enough and that you can trust, even if your career has already taken off.

Will you be performing more works by contemporaries or composers of our time and also of Romanian composers?

Yes. As a matter of fact, I might even record a CD that includes contemporary works, but that of course is still under wraps. I have memories of a work commissioned for the 2014 ARD Music Competition, which was a Suite for Cello solo by Tobias M. Schneid. It’s arguably the hardest piece I have ever played and still don’t know how I managed to learn it by heart. I have scheduled performances of Enescu’s Sinfonia concertante, Op. 8 and his two cello sonatas for next season and very much look forward to discovering them.

Do you have any recordings in the works?

I already have a recent recording of Brahms Complete Clarinet Sonatas and Trio on the Spanish label IBS in collaboration with two friends, clarinetist Pablo Barragan and pianist Juan Perez Floristan. There are two other CD projects coming up which involve solo cell and with a wonderful string ensemble, but that’s all I can tease you with at the moment. 

I read that you admire David Geringas, Steven Isserlis and Wolfgang Boettcher. How would you describe your musical personality?

My favorite cellists are Steven Isserlis and the legendary Daniil Shafran. There is no other string player as natural and relaxed on the instrument as Isserlis, something almost impossible to find nowadays. On top of that, his free and imaginative artistic vision is very relatable to me. It’s the same with Shafran as he was truly one of the most original musicians of all time. 

I’m not in a position to describe my own playing and will let listeners decide about that. All I know is that music is a language that I feel is the easiest for me to express myself and get the message across in the most visceral and convincing way possible.

What are some of your upcoming plans?

 Next January, I’m coming back to the States for an East Coast tour with the National Symphony Orchestra of Romania conducted by Cristian Macelaru. It will be this youth orchestra’s first ever visit to the US, so we are all really looking forward to it. {Editor’s Note: This tour will include Ionita playing Dvorak’s cello concerto January 16, 2019 at the State Theatre, New Jersey. And on January 11 the National Symphony Orchestra of Romania under Cristian Macelaru will team up with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in the world premiere of Wynton Marsalis’ The Jungle, at the Rose Theater in New York City.}