Con Fuoco: Ella van der Mespel, violin




Welcome to Con Fuoco, CutCommon’s interview series with emerging musicians. This time, we have a very special interview for you featuring an international guest.

Our Con Fuoco series coordinator Leah Blankendaal met Ella van der Mespel, a New Zealand-born violinist, while the two were in Rotterdam for the 2017 Classical:NEXT Convention (in which CutCommon was shortlisted for the Innovation Award).


Ella van der Mespel studied music from a young age. While raised in New Zealand, Ella played works for orchestra and chamber music. In 2011, she moved to the Netherlands to pursue study. She has been a member of the NJO (Dutch national youth orchestra), has performed in a string quartet alongside jazz pianist Bert van den Brink, and in 2014 played with her piano trio in a sold out Kleine Zaal of Het Concertgebouw. The same year, she performed Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with the Utrecht Muse Art Studenten Orkest. In 2015, Ella was nominated for the EMIR Steyerbergprijs and this year won second prize in the competition Prix d’Harmonie.

Ella joined the Rotterdam Philharmonic Academy in 2016 and was recently selected as a fellow to participate in the Classical:NEXT Convention. She is currently completing her Masters degree at Codarts – Conservatorium of Rotterdam.


Your all time favourite piece of music, and why?

Ah, so much music to choose from! I’d have to go with Goldberg Variations by Bach. I always associate it with a time when I was about 15 or 16 and I was still studying in New Zealand. I had done my first big orchestral audition and, of course, wasn’t expecting anything to come from it. My teacher knew the result before I did. To soften the blow, he said: ‘Listen to this CD on the way home. Disappointments happen, however now is the time to listen to the simplicity of beautiful music and to love what you do’.

The CD was the Goldberg Variations, played by Dmitry Sitkovetsky’s trio.

Best piece of musical advice you’ve received?

There are two particular pieces of advice I remind myself of every time I practice.

‘Don’t eradicate what was great when you made a mistake. Just before that mistake was probably something brilliant.’ My current teacher Gordan Nikolic has a knack for great quotes.

The other is: ‘Music is about making a promise that will never be fulfilled’. It takes time to mull them over in your mind. But once you get it: incredible.

Most memorable concert experience?

My first big orchestral concert with New Zealand Youth Orchestra. We played Mahler’s seventh symphony and it was such an incredible experience. I had never realised how much stamina was needed! It was one of those moments where I realised: this has to be a part of my life and I will do everything possible to make that happen.

Biggest fear when performing?

As strange as this may seem, my biggest fear is being afraid. It has never happened that a performance went just as I had planned it to, so I try to come to terms with accepting and even embracing the unknown when performing.

I love to perform and I love to share that joy with the audience. Being afraid of what may happen inhibits me from feeling open enough to share everything with those listening. 

How do you psych yourself up for practice on a lazy day?

I love this question. It’s something we all face from time to time. What works best for me, if it’s a nice day, is to go for a run. Somehow after a run, I’m always up for an intensive day of focused practice. If the weather gets in the way, there is nothing better than waking up, going downstairs and making a good cup of tea (or if you need even more comfort, a cup of hot chocolate!) and coming back to practice in your PJs. There is nothing more comfortable and cozy than that!

Oh, and something that always helps: hide all phones, iPads, etc. The distraction somehow can find a way to interfere with motivation.

Most embarrassing moment on stage?

The embarrassing moment was definitely getting a fit of uncontrollable laughter in the middle of a concert. To the point of tears and snorting. I can’t even remember what was funny in the first place.

Favourite post-gig ritual?

To have a beer and reflect on the concert later, in my own space.

What are you most proud of in your musical career so far?

It’s tough to list one proud moment. I would say improvising in public. Strange as it may seem, it felt like jumping in the deep end and loving it!

What do you love most about making music?

That’s a toughie. I love that you can escape your world for a moment and create another. Then having the opportunity to share that with someone. What could be better?

What’s your ultimate goal?

My ultimate goal is to continue bringing pleasure to others through music. If I could work in an orchestra, play some chamber music, teach a bit and jam with other jazz musicians, I would be genuinely thrilled and humbled to have lead such a life.

Image supplied. Credit: Yana Sheva.

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