Meet The Artist, April 22, 2021

Toke Møldrup, cellist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I had a wonderful childhood in a family of professional musicians. Both of my parents where classical guitarists who met at the academy in my hometown Aarhus, Denmark, where my father taught my mother throughout her studies. My father had a substantial concert career and released thirty (!) solo albums, while my mother pursued a career as a landscape painter. It felt as if our home was always full of Danish and international musicians, composers and artists. Spurred by this vibrant atmosphere I did all I could to learn an instrument – piano first, then cello. One of the returning guests and a good friend of the house was cellist and professor Morten Zeuthen, who became my cello “father” from the very beginning and later my teacher and today colleague at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen. He plays the cello with a Scandinavian, yet unmistakably personal sound, a concept that I instinctively set out to imitate. At the age of fourteen I began to study music full-time at the local Royal Academy of Music, which seemed like a natural continuation of the wave of creativity and music my childhood was so filled with. Later influences from teachers and fellow students during my studies, and incredible colleagues during my career as a soloist, teacher and orchestra/chamber musician, have impacted me greatly, and I am profoundly indebted to all of them!

One of the most important influences was professor Hans Jensen from Northwestern Bienen School of Music (then Northwestern University School of Music), with whom I studied at Meadowmount School of Music and in Evanston, Illinois. Jensen convinced me that I could achieve musical excellence through intensive work, and he taught me how to practise with a real focus, something from which I greatly benefitted. Late in my studies I encountered the Croatian cellist Valter Dešpalj who showed me the way to a relaxed cello technique and opened my ears to versatile playing styles. I thank him for that on a daily basis! Among the musicians who influenced me directly and indelibly are the members of the Paizo Quartet, in particular Mikkel Futtrup, our incredible first violinist whose constant search for natural and free quartet playing became part of my musical DNA. Through the years, pianist Yaron Kohlberg, together with whom I recently released Beethoven’s works for piano and cello, has become a great friend while showing by example how a world-class musician works and plays.

I would like to add that the inspiration and drive to play music have been constant forces since a very young age. As John Rutter says in his interview here on Meet the Artist: You don’t choose music as a way of life, it chooses you. I think that is very well said.



What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

On the one hand the art of balancing jobs to earn a living, and on the other to keep living artistic dreams and ambitions. Over the years, these two needs have been at odds many times! But I think I am getting better and better at balancing them, and dreams and ambitions are currently winning! In 2020 I decided to leave my secure job as principal cellist of the Copenhagen Phil to pursue a solo career.

Full-time positions are relatively rare for musicians, and if you are lucky enough to be part of a group like the Copenhagen Phil, the decision is almost impossible. At the end of the day, I decided to go with the basic musical instinct that has been with me since childhood.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I have enjoyed the process of all my recordings. Personally, I think each of them tells a story about where I was in my development at the time they were done. Many more are on the way, and I really treat them like small infants that I nurture. Singling out one of them would be unfair to the others! If I had to mention one performance that I remember well, it would be the European premiere of John Williams’ cello concerto with the Tivoli Copenhagen Phil under legendary conductor Lawrence Foster.



Which particular works do you think you perform best?

My ambition is to deliver an interesting approach to any piece of music that I have in front of me. Andres Segovia, the great Spanish guitar legend, said that an amateur is free to show which pieces he likes best, whereas a professional musician has an obligation to treat all music with equal interest. I’m very fond of that approach, and I think that now, in 2021, close to 100 percent of all professionals are doing just that.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I play quite a lot of piano at home. To me, as a single-note instrumentalist, the piano is bliss. I had a ten-year career as a quartet cellist, so I got to know all about sharing chords with others! However amazing and fun that can be, I enjoy the sensation of being in charge of all the notes in a chord myself – it is simply a fulfilling experience. I use the piano as an inspirational work tool, and I use it to “accompany” myself, which is such an effective work strategy when preparing concertos, chamber music, sonatas, and even short pieces.

I do the five Tibetans (ancient yoga exercises) every day. The exercises are part of my plan to one day achieve a complete and uninterrupted floating energy on stage. A good run on the morning of a concert also enhances your perspective, and wherever you run you always see something new and potentially inspiring. I have run quite a lot in big cities around the world, and it has been a wonderful way to discover them. I remember a concert after a long run in Shanghai with my head full of images of crowded streets, markets, loud voices, parks, crazy intersections, and of getting lost shortly before the concert. Not bad material for an artist to work with!

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Lately this has been linked directly to my albums, and I have been lucky to be able to use concerts to prepare for them.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in, and why?

Over the years I have developed a kind of bond with the concert hall of the Royal Danish Academy of Music. During my time as principal cellist with the Copenhagen Phil I performed in the hall more or less every week. I have played there several times as a soloist and in chamber music concerts, and just last week I recorded a new album there. Apart from it being a fantastic concert hall with a perfect mix of intimacy and grandeur, I can’t avoid feeling a bit of nostalgia when performing there.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences?

The question has been asked throughout the last fifty years. I remember my parents talking about it over the dinner table as early as the eighties. My father was very preoccupied with it, and worried about the future of classical music. Sometime in the nineties I asked him if he thought that pop songs would still be using the same chords in fifty years. And if people would still play cello and Beethoven in 2050. I don’t remember his answer, but around thirty years in we have to admit that the tonal material for a good pop song is more or less the same as it has been since… I want to say Rachmaninoff, but I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes! (But sit down and listen to the 2nd movement of his 2nd piano concerto or the cello sonata – there you have it, hits of a century, and sounding like many later songs!). I’m pretty sure we will have accomplished cellists, tenors, harpsichordists in 2050 as well, performing Beethoven and the like. And everybody will be trying to answer the question in their own way. And that is good! Although I’m sure most musicians sometimes take a nostalgic look back to a time when Deutsche Grammophon’s sound engineers flew all over the world in business class! Back then classical music simply existed and didn’t need to reinvent itself at all. Now we have to come up with many more reasons why we do what we do. And great things have come of it, really. I believe we have a much richer classical music scene thanks to all the wonderful artists and ensembles, orchestras and institutions who are trying to answer the question in their own very special style. In our time (excepting Corona), if you like Tchaikovsky’s 5th in a beautiful concert hall full of people with the best orchestra and the best conductor, you can go and listen to that. If you want to experience a symphony orchestra spread out over fifty balconies of a three-story apartment building in a bad part of town, that too is a possibility.



I think the answer to the question is: Let’s keep doing our best to get the music out there, creating visionary programming, exciting education on all levels. Let’s launch crazy projects and just do what we are best at: performing as if our life depended on it. And let’s be sure to get some statistics on the actual numbers of listeners in the concert halls. My dad used to complain about those numbers, too. But from my view here in Denmark, Europe, it seems like more and more people are actually getting interested in the wonderful world of classical music.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Probably a concert in Paris at the auditorium of the Musée d’Orsay, where my quartet borrowed one of the violinists of the Danish String Quartet, Rune Sorensen, to play second violin. We played Death and the Maiden by Schubert, and I remember looking over to see some kind of fire blazing between the two violinists, challenging and following each other as if their life depended on it. I think the audience experienced exactly the same thing, because after what felt like a brief musical hurricane, everybody rose right after the last chord and applauded as if they were at a rock festival. I wouldn’t mind experiencing something like that again soon!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Relatively basic: Can you pay your rent while still maintaining your inspiration? Personally, I have always been impressed with any musician who actually manages to make a living from it, by whatever means. Go popular, if that’s what does it for you. Retreat to a monastery to practise for a year if that is your thing, but make sure you can pay the rent, and provide for any children you might have!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

1. Dream big and do all you can to achieve this dream. If your dream fails, dream a new dream.

2. Learn when you are learning. Don’t ask questions all the time, just follow along and see where it takes you. If you don’t feel that you are learning enough, change teacher or institution, but maybe wait until you’ve finished your next exam.

3. Practise all the time. With the instrument and without it: read, see, understand, feel.

4. Trust your instinct, it is usually right. If you are not sure about a decision, go to an isolated (maybe even dark) room for ten minutes, consider, make the decision and stand by it. If you have a girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse – by all means, run it by him or her!

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Happy to continue what I am doing now!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Generally, I try to focus on the moment rather than achieving happiness. That sort of thing can make you very happy!

What is your most treasured possession?

If I possessed my wife and kids, they would be it!

What is your present state of mind?

Relatively optimistic!

Acclaimed as “A star” (New York Times), “Tomorrow’s man” and even a “A consummate perfectionist on the cello” (Politiken), Danish cellist Toke Møldrup has performed across Europe and the United States, South America, Australia, the Middle East and Asia for two decades.


An Interview with Cellist Toke Møldrup – Fanfare Magazine 3/21


It’s Never Too Late for Beethoven: An Interview with Cellist Toke Møldrup, by Jerry Dubins


I see that back in our May-June 2018 issue (41:5), I reviewed your release of Bach’s Solo Cello Suites, which I found exceptionally absorbing—spellbinding, really—for both the beauty of your playing and your penetrating insight into the music. But if that wasn’t enough, a coda to the set was added in the form of the Suite No. 1 in a version realized as a Baroque trio sonata, largely the work of Viggo Mangor, which sounded as convincing as if Bach had written it himself. Here and now you’ve turned your attention to Beethoven and his sonatas and variations works for cello and piano. The two-disc set has only just arrived for our interview and review in the March-April 2021 issue (44:4), three months past the end of festivities for the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth year, but you recorded the set in 2019, and as the above interview title makes clear, “It’s never too late for Beethoven.” Now, it would be a silly question to ask what brought you to Beethoven’s cello sonatas. That would be like asking what brought Mohammed to the mountain. Sooner or later, all cellists pay homage to what are arguably the first of the really important and consequential mainstream sonatas composed for cello and piano. What’s extraordinary is how early in Beethoven’s career the first two of them were written, two years earlier than his first three sonatas for violin and piano. So, let me begin by asking you to characterize the first two cello sonatas, and compare and contrast them to the Third Sonata, which dates from the composer’s middle period, and the last two sonatas, which come at the tail end of his middle period and stand on the threshold of his late period.


First of all, thank you so much for the kind words on my Bach recording, and also for the elaborate review that you gave back in 2018. And yes, this Beethoven recording was intended to be released early in the anniversary year, but the pandemic closed down Italy, where Aulicus Classics is based, so everything was unfortunately delayed.

I’m applauding your headline; it is true on so many levels! And yes, as a cellist, or a musician in general, “the Mountain”—Beethoven’s entire production—does come to you all by itself. It is inevitable, and many musicians seem to have a good understanding of Beethoven for that reason. In my case, the understanding was particularly formed by playing and recording many of the quartets with the Paizo Quartet (1999–2009), the trios that I played a lot with the Danish Piano Trio (2015–20), and the symphonies that I recorded with the Copenhagen Philharmonic and Lan Shui (2010–20). As a result, during the last 20 years I have played the sonatas and variations inspired and practically experienced from Beethoven’s other works involving the cello.

In particular the role of the cello in the string quartets showed me an entrance to the piano/cello works. Here, we, the cellists, are second in line, which is even indicated in the titles: “for piano and cello,” not the other way around as it becomes customary in cello/piano works later in the 19th century. But obviously, we move virtuoso-like in and out of that role, as if the piano represents three good colleagues in a string quartet. We deliver the bass line, accompaniment, the melody, and many subtle variations of that.

Let’s return to your question about the first two sonatas (and the three early sets of variations) and how they compare to the Sonata, op. 69, and the two op. 102 Sonatas. The first two sonatas and the three sets of variations are the closest we get to cello works by Mozart, if he had written any. We cellists are always imagining how sonatas by Mozart would have sounded on our instrument, and with these first two sonatas by Beethoven, I think we get an idea of how they could have sounded. Beethoven’s first two cello sonatas were composed around five years after the early death of Mozart, by the very composer who was expected and later applauded as the successor to Mozart in Vienna. The “Mozart” variations on two themes from the Magic Flute show a musical affinity for Mozart, so I think it’s fair to say that Beethoven was influenced by Mozart. How could he not be? Now, we all wonder how Mozart would have developed had he not died so young. How would a late cello sonata in F Major have sounded? Would a layman have had a hard time differentiating between Mozart and Beethoven’s F-Major sonata? In any case, what I think a performer should look here to seek the musical conventions at this time. How do performers transfer the printed notes to their instrument, and what is their background? Exciting questions!

Then, I always start out reflecting on what key the music is written in. Historically, composers have been very specific about this. As summed up by the Canadian musicologist Rita Steblin’s impressive work, A History of Key Characteristics in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries, every key has its individual character, and Steblin articulates how this knowledge has been important to all composers of that time. To my modern-tuning, perfect-pitch ear, her final list of key characters fits more or less with my own personal idea of the keys. To me, the key is literally the key to start working with a classical piece of music. In the example of these two sonatas, it makes a lot of sense to me.

To me, the F-Major Sonata (with Steblin, “Complaisance and calm”) is a perfect example of how the description of the key matches with the basic character of the piece. The entire slow opening, and the first theme of the Allegro, are wonderfully calming, yet content. The second movement opens with a true example of a complaisant theme. In the Second Sonata, we set out in grave darkness which will eventually move to a bright G Major, which happens to be the key of gentle and peaceful emotions (Steblin).

It was a convention of the 17th- and 18th-century composers to end minor-key movements in the major. But the way Beethoven turns minor into major at the end of the first movement of the G-Minor Sonata is, for me, unmistakably a stamp of his. I think it gives us a hint of what’s to come in his later works—I’m thinking here about the end of the String Quartet in C Minor, op. 18/4, the end of the Fifth Symphony, and the end of the last piano sonata, op. 111, and the very end of the last movement of the C♯-Minor Quartet, op. 131. You might call me a melancholic, but when Beethoven changes minor to major, I think he is often much stronger than other composers. His way of letting life, light, and heaven overcome death, darkness, and despair is revolutionary, not in any way conventional. Even when it is just for a brief second, he leaves us with the impression that we can overcome anything. For me, few can compete with him there.

The Rondo in the Sonata No. 2 is a second-to-none show-off in the piano part, and we, the cellists, just enjoy how the material unfolds, although a couple of passages turn out to be surprisingly difficult and give us some stress here and there. History tells us that Beethoven played them “several times” at the court of King Friedrich Wilhelm II together with French master cellist Jean-Louis Duport. I’m imagining how the heat was turned on at these performances. Surely the young Beethoven wouldn’t miss a chance to impress the King of Prussia! I think that for both of these works you need a world-class pianist with a surplus of control, ensuring the virtuosic spark needed to try and match the first performances. The individual voice of each sonata is very strong, and it is difficult to compare them directly with Beethoven’s other chamber music, symphonies, and concertos. The exception might be the “Spring” Violin Sonata in F Major, and the Third Cello Sonata in A Major.

In the development section of the A-Major Sonata (1808), Beethoven brilliantly borrows the theme from one of the famous arias in Bach’s St. John Passion, “Es ist vollbracht,” and in a sense it really is fulfilled! This entire sonata is a veritable world hit, probably one of Beethoven’s most popular works together with the Violin Concerto, the “Archduke” and “Ghost” Trios, and the “Pastoral” Symphony, right after which it was written.

Here, the cello immediately takes a more dominant role, introducing some of the most recognized, Classical-theme formulations. What a joy to be a cellist here! The role distribution is simpler in this sonata compared to the first two. It is easier to establish what is what, so to say. Technically, we have a lot more to do, and it is clear that Beethoven during the in-between period has reached a whole other understanding of string instruments. It is for me the most idiomatic of the sonatas; dare I say that I think he finds his way to the soul of the cello in this sonata.


Obviously, as Beethoven’s style and manner of musical speech evolved over time, so too did the technical demands he made on the instruments he wrote for. His later works aren’t necessarily more difficult in a virtuosic sense—a member of the Alexander String Quartet opined that Beethoven’s early quartets are actually physically more difficult to play than his late quartets, as contrary as that may seem when we listen to them—but how does that comport with your understanding of the composer’s writing for the cello, and for the piano as well, for that also plays a crucial role in the quite evident change in musical content and means of expression?


I agree with the Alexanders. As I mentioned above, I feel that in op. 69 and onwards Beethoven finds something natural in his writing for the cello. Everything fits the hands better, and the instrument simply sounds better by itself here. I have had the same experience with students who seem to have greater technically difficulties figuring out the first two sonatas than the last three. It is fair to say that the musical material and form have matured, and we don’t have to seek for “solutions” to make things work on an ideal level. We just try to do exactly what he has written, and everything seems to work on a high level already. In the early works you have to be more creative in a sense. And sometimes it can be really difficult to be creative, especially when you have to enter the minds of 250-year-old-plus performers. But it is a very healthy process, and as a matter of fact, I am currently doing an artistic research project on that subject.


How has the cello itself evolved as an instrument since Beethoven composed these works? The assumption is that you are playing on a cello the specs and setup of which would have differed somewhat from the cello Beethoven would have known. Certainly, that was true of the piano as well, though the modifications and improvements the piano underwent in the decades after Beethoven were surely more extensive and far-reaching than anything string instruments were subjected to. But the question is, given your knowledge of the cello then and now, to what extent have you altered your approach to fingering, bowing, phrasing, and vibrato in the “now” to accommodate the “then”?


I’m happy you take up this issue, since it is something that used to keep me awake all night. On this recording I’m using my 1697 David Tecchler cello in its usual, beautiful shape. As with many of my colleagues, I have done experiments with different setups, gut strings, Baroque bows, and so on. I have great interest in listening to what others are getting out of their efforts in this field—great examples are Pieter Wispelwey’s and Steven Isserlis’s Baroque/Classical recordings, and of course wonderful period ensembles such as the Concerto Copenhagen. In my own music making, however, I have realized that changing the frame of my instrument for Baroque/Classical doesn’t pay off artistically the way I would want it to. I don’t feel that it brings me to a better place, so to speak. To me the cello, or any musical instrument, is really “an instrument,” a wonderful machine, that we use to channel our understanding of the composer’s works. And this has turned out to be the most important for me.

On YouTube there is a sequence of the late Danish bassoonist Peter Bastian playing a small Balkan-style improvisation, one of the most musical moments I can recall. And what is his instrument here? A straw! Given his extraordinary musicianship I think he could have played any piece of music on that straw, and it would still have made great sense.

So, in short, I feel very good about the modern setup for this recording, and that goes for the Fazioli top model piano as well. I think it is perfectly possible to channel our understanding of Beethoven’s works through those instruments.

Maybe some would call my approach to the matters you mentioned here pretty conservative. It’s all based on good old, grounded cello technique, as described vividly by Navarra, Feulliard, Grützmacher, and other great masters, such as my teachers, who were able to explain music-making on the cello down to the smallest detail. Lessons with the Alban Berg Quartet pointed me in the direction of Leopold Mozart’s treatise on violin playing, where most things about playing music around the time of his son are explained.

A core example of the thinking I use when playing Beethoven is from his String Quartet in C Minor, op. 18/4. In bar two of the first movement, according to the Classical school and L. Mozart, we should release tension right here. But Beethoven boldly writes a sforzando instead, accenting the release instead of just letting the musician perform it conventionally. He is creating a small revolution right there, one of many in his oeuvre.

The key message of this example is understanding the school, then understanding when Beethoven breaks the rules, and then making an art out of playing the 100 percent criminal wrongdoing, as if it was a new school! If fingering, bowing, phrasing, and vibrato follow this scheme, we are already quite far. I am constantly asking myself how to avoid unintended accents, glissandos, crescendos, diminuendos, portato, etc. But this approach is, however wonderful, quite conventional, or normal in a sense, and I think most musicians out there approach Classical/Classical Romantic music this way. But here is the special thing about it: It feels incredibly modern there on stage when you are right in the middle of it. For me, this is the approach that I finally feel good about, and it keeps the music alive for me.


As I’m sure you know, the five numbered sonatas and the three sets of variations are not the sum total of the works Beethoven composed for cello and piano. There’s an early sonata for horn, composed around the same time (1800) as the first three violin sonatas. It was written for the virtuoso hornist Giovanni Punto and premiered by him with Beethoven at the piano on April 18 of that year. As was customary practice at the time, the sonata was printed in versions for violin and for flute, probably made by the publisher, for the purpose of potentially increasing sales. But Beethoven himself is believed to have had a hand in the edition that was published as Sonate pour le Forte-Piano avec un Cor ou Violoncelle. Only two or three cellists I’m aware of have included the “Punto” Sonata in their integral Beethoven cello works surveys. Why is that?


It’s a good question, although relatively simple to answer. I think the rest of us just like it less! At least that’s the case from my angle. I love the idea of an entire set of a composer’s works on a disc, but should a piece fall in the category “OK to leave out and not as good as the other pieces in my opinion,” I am fine with leaving it out. I never felt that this sonata had a particular need to be played on the cello. Changing the instrument is not making it better. A counter-example is the Brahms G-Major Violin Sonata, op. 78, which is believed by some to have been transcribed and transposed to D Major by Brahms himself for his cellist friend Robert Hausmann. To me, this transcription works almost better than the already fantastic original. Maybe an eager young cellist in Beethoven’s surrounding begged him to do the transcription of the “Punto” Horn Sonata? I would probably have done just that if I had been around at that time.


Has your association with pianist Yaron Kohlberg been a long one? How and where did you first meet, and when did you decide to perform together as a cello and piano duo? Are the Beethoven sonatas your first recording together?


We met at the 2008 Tivoli Piano Competition here in Copenhagen. I was principal cellist of the Tivoli Copenhagen Philharmonic already back then, and Yaron had made it to the finals of that competition. He has been a finalist and prizewinner at most competitions he joined, including the Cleveland competition of which he is now the president. Before the general rehearsal I found him near my chair, sitting on the edge of the stage and swinging his legs, like Pierrot and the Moon, just adorable! I went to meet him, and we talked about competition stress, and how it was just a lot of pressure. He asked me to make funny faces at him during the performance, just to keep focus on the music, not the stress, and so I did, and he’d return some of them. He played a fantastic Beethoven “Emperor” Concerto, and my biggest wish was just to sit down with this guy and play sonatas. Luckily, he stayed in town for a few days, so we had time for playing through the cello/piano repertoire together. And we have continued to do that ever since at concerts in Denmark, Germany, France, Israel, and the U.S. I have learned so much from him—especially about what kind of level you show up with at first rehearsal. Yaron, being this incredibly versatile and genius musician, is always overly prepared and will not play a single mistake in rehearsals or concerts. As a result, I decided early on to make sure to know everything by heart before the first rehearsals. This way I thought I could keep up with his brilliantness, and maybe even challenge him a little! Occasionally I’d be forgetting big chunks of notes, but we would have such a laugh about that!

Our first disc together was Passionate from 2011. We chose that name because we were both very … passionate about everything. Alas, on the front cover I jump into the water backwards holding my cello, on the back cover, I’ve jumped up on Yaron’s back and we both look puzzled as if thinking: What the … happened??? The disc contains works from different 20th-century composers: Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Ginastera, etc. Lots of action on that recording!


Your biography indicates that you have been performing now for two decades across Europe and in the U.S., South America, Australia, Asia, and Middle East, and that you have also taken a special interest in modern repertoire for your instrument, having premiered a number of contemporary cello works, among which was the European premiere of the cello concerto by John Williams. What are some of the other works you’ve premiered, and have you collaborated directly with any of their composers?


Earlier this year we released the disc Cello Libris with Geoffrey Gordon’s works for cello on the BIS label, containing the cello concerto with the Copenhagen Philharmonic and Lan Shui; FATHOMS for cello and piano with New York pianist Steven Beck; and Ode to a Nightingale with the Mogens Dahl Chamber Choir. All three works were written for me and premiered in Copenhagen and New York at Weill Recital Hall. Geoffrey and I had a great contact around the creation of the pieces, which are all based on major literary works: Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale.” Other collaborations include Christian Winther Christensen’s highly experimental Concerto for Cello and Accordion, titled Licht Tanzt uns freulich hier, Bent Sørensen’s Second Trio, Per Nørgård’s Libra for cello and guitar, as well as Simon Steen-Andersen’s Four Petitesses for solo cello. At the moment, I am working closely together with Ejnar Kanding on a new solo piece for solo cello and 48 speakers(!) to be premiered and recorded at the fabulous rock venue, the Pump House, in the spring.

Working together with living composers on their works is something that I always try to establish, just as Jean-Luis Duport would benefit from his work with Beethoven.

I note too that until recently you served as principal cellist in the Copenhagen Philharmonic, but that you gave up that position due to your busy schedule and in order to concentrate on your solo performing career and also your teaching duties at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. What advice do you have for students who are thinking of pursuing careers as orchestral players, as members of a string quartet or other chamber ensemble, or even as concert cellists?

Looking around to see where all of my fellow students from the 1990s and early 2000s are at today, I’m amazed to see what exciting careers they seem to have. Many hold teaching and orchestra positions, being an important part of the local or (inter)national culture life. A few have actual concert careers. But I am also seeing quite a few who are combining their music education with something else, and who are now working part or full-time in other creative fields. I was surprised to learn that an old classmate, a violist, had become the director of Mercedes-Benz! In Denmark, where education is free, this could be seen as a waste of the state’s money, but I like to see it as proof that musicians are able to understand structures across professional competence, and being able to give an unconventional input to other businesses.

We have learned how to learn, and this knowledge is becoming increasingly important in a world that changes every five minutes. So, first of all I would advise students to practice and study manically in order to pursue their dreams, because dreams are a must-have in this business! If everything fails, the advice is to change the dream…. And then, if I may, let’s applaud fellow students and colleagues in their attempt to pursue their dreams. I can really recommend this; it makes for strong circles, locally, nationally, worldwide.


What can we expect next from Toke Møldrup? Recording projects planned or currently in progress? What are the three cello concertos you would most like to record? Any interest in conducting?


As it looks right now, you can expect fewer concerts and more CDs. The world pandemic has left some time for other projects, and as we speak, I am making the last corrections for my next solo album, featuring works by Nørgård, Britten, and Kodály, which will be out during the spring of 2021. Meanwhile, together with Viggo Mangor, we are forming a new five-string cello repertoire for my next CD with the humble working title, New Baroque Masterpieces. It will contain new arrangements of music by Baroque composers. The album will be part of my two-year artistic research project at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, From specialization to general practice—HIPP in modern instrumental practice. The project examines how insights from HIPP (Historically Informed Performance Practice) can inspire and enrich a modern performance practice. And there are many insights. One of them is a more fluent relation to figured bass playing, which is why I am spending a good deal of time at the keyboard these days.

In the spring I will be recording a CD of Danish music with accordion star Bjarke Mogensen, and then I’m lining up an EP with fascinating pianist Tanja Zapolski, also to be recorded in the spring. Other projects include my annual masterclass at the island of Bornholm, Denmark, as well as the creation of a brand-new music festival, details not yet to be revealed.

BEETHOVEN Cello Sonatas Nos. 1–5. 7 Variations on Mozart’s “Bei Männern”. 12 Variations on “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen”. 12 Variations on “See the Conquering Hero Comes” • Toke Møldrup (vc); Yaron Kohlberg (pn) • AULICUS 0035 (2 CDs: 138:36)


It’s time for a bit of a reckoning. Recordings of Beethoven’s cello sonatas are not now, nor have they ever been, in short supply. Checking the Fanfare Archive, I find that I, myself, have reviewed no fewer than 20 of them, most of which received strong endorsements and recommendations. Five of those sets—three of which were never reviewed here (for the details, see my review of the sonatas with Julius Berger in 44:4)—contained the seldom recorded cello transcription of the “Punto” Horn Sonata, mentioned above in my interview with Møldrup. A number of other sets include just the five numbered sonatas and nothing else. Many, as here, also offer, along with the five sonatas, the three sets of variations, two on arias from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and one on a chorus from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus.

That said, as Toke made clear in our interview, his performances with pianist Yaron Kohlberg are thoroughly modern in a way that neither adopts period practices in an attempt to simulate the sound of period instruments, nor indulges in the excesses of Romanticized exaggerations of phrasing through misplaced accents, unwritten crescendos and diminuendos, or unstylish glissandos and portato bowing. Instead, Toke’s approach is one of rapt attention to the extended line and to the lyrical element that informs the music. He opens the throat of his 1697 David Tecchler cello, with modern setup, and allows it to sing its heart out. For sheer bounty and generosity of tone, Møldrup and Kohlberg’s Beethoven cello works may be the most beautiful yet. Kohlberg’s Fazioli 278 (2019) piano—an instrument whose tonal luster I’ve commented on before in recordings by Angela Hewitt—makes the perfect partner for Møldrup’s cello.

I wouldn’t want to leave the reader with the impression, however, that Toke’s playing is all song and no dance. If it’s dancing you want, listen to the naughty gnomes at mischievous, just-this-side-of-malign play in the Scherzo of the Third Sonata, the humorous hijinks in the concluding Allegro vivace of the Fourth Sonata, and the fugal fun and games in the finale of the Fifth Sonata, the latter well on its way to Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge and Walt Whitman’s “barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”

In a field overflowing with the good, the better, and the already best, Toke Møldrup and Yaron Kohlberg’s Beethoven cello sonatas and “Mozart” variations easily rise to the top of the best of the best category. Theirs are memorable performances more than worthy of a permanent place on everyone’s shelf. Jerry Dubins

New Beethoven album 2020

Politiken, Thomas Michelsen, 25.11.2020

Are there hidden treasures at the bottom of the sea?

CELLO. Toke Møldrup’s Beethoven album, with the superb Yaron Kohlberg on piano, can easily measure up internationally. Pr-photo


Beethoven: Works for piano and cello.

Toke Møldrup and Yaron Kohlberg. Aulicus Classics



Some musical works have become such an integral part of the standard repertoire that it is almost impossible to get by without them as a musician if you play a given instrument. Other works have been relegated to historical obscurity and must be brought to light. Two new albums by two of Denmark’s finest string players illustrate the point.

For cellists, there isn’t really much of a question. In the course of his life, Beethoven wrote five sonatas for piano and cello, and if you have aspirations as a cello soloist and chamber musician, well, then you play Beethoven’s cello sonatas. Toke Møldrup has recently released an album with all five sonatas. His sound on the large string instrument is smooth and broad, his technique is solid, and he has teamed up with a pianist who lifts it all up an extra notch.

Israeli pianist Yaron Kohlberg treats all details with the precision and care that are a prerequisite for chamber musicians today. This is important, since the piano is at least as prominent in the two early cello sonatas as the string part, and Kohlberg is up to the task with engagement and effervescence.

The musicians are on their toes, and it is a pleasure to hear the pianist lend meaning to Beethoven’s musical sentences and elegantly bring them to a close.

The middle sonata is played with zest and nerve by the two musicians, without falling into a sentimental trap. Once we reach the two late sonatas that make up Beethoven’s opus 102, the music conveys profundity and lived life, qualities the duo delivers so exquisitely, that one forgets the question of moderation may have entered one’s mind while listening to the early sonatas.

True elegance

As might be expected, Toke Møldrup has chosen to supplement the release with Beethoven’s two sets of variations for cello and piano on well-known melodies from Mozart’s Magic Flute. This is common practice among nearly all cellists who record the sonatas, and lends additional warmth and sensitivity to an album that can easily measure up to strong international recordings of Beethoven’s cello sonatas, but without the more unconventional antics of duos such as Jean-Guihen Queyras and Alexander Melnikov, who cultivate a distinctive style of expression, or rivalling the uppermost echelons of newer top-notch recordings by musicians such as Miklós Perényi and András Schiff.

English translation: Thilo Reinhard

A consummate perfectionist on the cello

A consummate perfectionist on the cello

… This reviewer can remember listening to cellist Toke Møldrup’s debut at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. It was impossible to give him fewer than six out of six stars, even though that was unusual, especially considering it was a debut concert.

But everything was so consummately executed, both technically and musically. And it wasn’t because the debutant had been cherry-picking the easy bits.

Møldrup quickly found a position, and for ten years – until 2020 – he was principal cellist with the Copenhagen Philharmonic. Here he did far more than merely his duty. He played the solo part in cello concertos by Haydn and film composer John Williams, and many beautiful orchestral solos flowed from his bow during these years …

Despite his relatively young age, Møldrup has considerable experience to draw on – among other things as a member of chamber ensembles such as the Copenhagen Cello Quartet, the Paizo String Quartet, and for the past five years the Danish Piano Trio, in addition to the avant-garde ensemble Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen – and in the spring of 2020 he took the plunge and embarked on a solo career, something that really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

This was in part possible because he was offered a permanent teaching position at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, his alma mater, in the form of an associate professorship. But how many Danish cellists, apart from a grand master such as Morten Zeuthen, Møldrup’s teacher, have recorded all six of Bach’s solo suites for cello to major critical acclaim?

Toke Møldrup has done so because the man is a perfectionist. In addition, he runs marathons to stay in top shape and maintain his physical stamina when he sits on stage in front of the audience.

Few musicians manage to establish a permanent collaboration with a composer, but this, too, Møldrup has been able to do. Realizing that he gelled extremely well with composer Geoffrey Gordon, he presented his album Cello Libris six months ago, a collection of exceptionally colourful, intensely narrative works by the American, who already six years ago wrote a concerto for cello and symphony orchestra for Møldrup, inspired by their shared admiration for Thomas Mann’s famous musician novel Doctor Faustus … Toke Møldrup is a prodigious musician, and on a private note, he and his wife have recently become parents to a boy named Frederik, their third child, so can there be much doubt that the 40-year-old birthday boy will be celebrated in style? We hope so, and extend our warmest wishes.

Thomas Michelsen, Politiken 3rd November, 2020

English translation: Thilo Reinhard


Cello Libris – works for cello by Geoffrey Gordon

Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone, 2020

This is apparently the first release to be dedicated to Geoffrey Gordon (b1968), though the composer has built up a substantial and wide-ranging catalogue over the last quarter of a century, with the three works featured here attesting to his imaginative outlook on the musical past.

Inspired by Doktor Faustus, Thomas Mann’s powerful if often fanciful take on the creative ego, the Cello Concerto (2013) falls into a Prologue, seven Episodes and Epilogue that play continuously for 24 minutes (paralleling those 24 years of creativity granted in the Faustian pact). Its trajectory from ‘innocence to madness’ might easily risk overkill but the Dutilleux-like finesse Gordon instils into the relationship of soloist and orchestra (cello only coming to the fore in two trenchant cadenza passages) helps to maintain expressive focus throughout.

The other pieces are hardly less arresting. Fathoms (2015) consists of five impressions after Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with a substantial Prologue representing the storm sequence; the six movements resulting in a cello sonata of a cohesion because of, rather than despite, these extramusical associations. Most distinctive are the final movements, a free-form fantasy that evokes the isle full of noises then a sustained leave-taking whose inexorable descent mirrors that of Prospero drowning his book. More concrete in its associations, Ode to a Nightingale (2013) sets all eight stanzas of Keats’s poem in writing – luminous and astringent by turns – that builds toward an ecstatic culmination with the cello wholly subsumed into the chorus, before those two sound-sources ineluctably move apart as does the poet from his inspiration.

It remains to add that performances are consistently excellent, Toke Møldrup equally at home in the three highly contrasted contexts, but the booklet notes seem more intent on selling than explaining these works. On this evidence, Gordon’s music is more than able to promote itself.


Thomas Michelsen, Politiken, 12. maj 2020

Solokarriere skydes i gang med djævlepagt
Toke Møldrup viser styrke på et powerfuldt album med musik skrevet specielt til den danske cellist af amerikansk nodesupermand.
Cello Libris.
Toke Møldrup, Copenhagen Phil, Mogens Dahl Kammerkor m.fl. Dirigent: Lan Shui. BIS

“…Toke Møldrup er en forrygende cellist…”

Der er musikere, der spiller fast sammen. Og så er der musikere, der får et fast samarbejde op at stå med en komponist. Det sidste gælder den danske cellist Toke Møldrup, der efter en del år som koncertmester i Copenhagen Phil netop har besluttet at forlade symfoniorkestret for at satse på en solokarriere.
Det er forståeligt, når man lytter til Møldrups nye album, hvor han viser sig frem. Både som virtuos kammermusiker og powerfuld solist med sit gamle orkester.
Samarbejdet, der afspejles på albummet ’Cello Libris’, har varet op igennem 2010’erne og gav sig allerede for 6 år siden udslag i den koncert for cello og symfoniorkester, den amerikanske komponist Geoffrey Gordon skrev til Møldrup. En cellokoncert, som med sine 24 minutter med højintenst drama er en spejling minut for minut af de 24 års genialsk skaberkraft, den fiktive komponist Adrian Leverkühn får tildelt af Djævelen i Thomas Manns roman ’Doktor Faustus’.
Musikken er højspændt og satanisk i sit saftspændte mørke. Vildskaben ender i galskab, mens Toke Møldrup i Gordons sonate ’Fathoms’ for cello og klaver effektivt bider skeer med sin amerikanske samarbejdspartners indarbejdelse af alt fra modernisme i sporet efter Arnold Schönberg til ekspressionisme og nyromantik.
Skruer celloens strenge løs
Her er magi og drama lånt fra Shakespeares ’Stormen’, der gennem seks satser åbenbarer nodesupermanden Geoffrey Gordons styrker som tonesætter. Men også hans svaghed, som er, at han mere end noget andet er dygtig. Skal man kunne lide denne musik, skal man være ude efter kvalificeret underholdning på en måde, vi ikke er vant til her i Norden, når det kommer til den komponerede samtidsmusik.
Skrap til at skrive farverig intens musik er Geoffrey Gordon dog ligegodt. Møldrup uropførte sonaten sammen med pianisten Steven Beck for fem år siden i New York, så de har været helt klar til at lave den nu udgivne indspilning.
Toke Møldrup er en forrygende cellist, og selv nåede jeg ikke at kede mig før et stykke inde i albummets afsluttende ’Ode to a Nightingale’ for kor og cello efter digte af den kanoniserede poet John Keats.
Lige så råt det er at høre slaven Caliban bande, og lige så spektakulært underholdende det er at høre Prosperos bog gå til bunds på dybt vand i Shakespeare-sonaten, mens Møldrup skruer celloens dybeste streng mere og mere løs, lige så ferskt bliver det at lytte til Mogens Dahl Kammerkors dygtige sangere i det meget lange korværk.
Men at amerikanske Geoffrey Gordon kan skrive musik, der konkurrerer med komponister som britiske Thomas Adès’ i fascinationskraft, bare på en mere mainstream-agtig måde, er der ikke tvivl om. Ligesom der ikke er tvivl om, at Toke Møldrup selvfølgelig nu skal ud at prøve vingerne solo i den vide verden.


Peter Johannes Erichsen, Weekendavisen, 7. august 2020

“…Cello Libris er en oprivende sand og kategorisk hjertestyrkning”

Cello Libris . Thomas Mann, Shakespeare og Keats indsmeltet i musik. En tour de force for cellisten Toke Møldrup.
Peter Johannes Erichsen
Cello Libris. Geoffrey Gordon.
Celloværker. Solist Toke Møldrup. BIS-2330.
Den amerikanske komponist Geoffrey Gordon (f. 1968) har dedikeret tre værker til den danske cellist Toke Møldrup (f. 1980): en cellokoncert med afsæt i Thomas Manns djævleforskrivelses-roman Dr. Faustus , en cellosonate, Fathoms , med gnister fra William Shakespeares skuespil The Tempest , og et korværk over John Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale med obligat cello.
Modsat en skuespiller eller sanger, der sætter sin egen krop i spil, har cellisten en blankt skinnende torso foran sig, som aflokkes det sublime og ordløse. I løbet af 24 minutter jager Geoffrey Gordon og Toke Møldrup nådesløse sonder ind i det forløb på 24 år, som komponisten Adrian Leverkühn har aftalt med djævelen som frugtbart spillerum for en ny tonekunst. Denne verden, fremmanet i det dystre år 1943, mishagede det komponisten Arnold Schönberg at have stået model til. Nu kan Geoffrey Gordons ubarmhjertigt præcise kanylehak ind i det litterære mesterværk opleves med Copenhagen Phil, dirigeret af Lan Shui, og med Toke Møldrup, orkestrets solocellist, som uforfærdet intravenøs dartspiller.
En prolog og en epilog indrammer syv satser, med et klart sigte i den tredje mod Albrecht Dürers kobberstik Melancholia . Ildevarslende, som blev folianter kaldt til live. Man synes at høre en sitrende bladren i orkestret, men med solocelloen som retvisende stifinder kommer minutkorte hasarderede triumfer, med mindelser om den omflakkende helt i Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote , hvor en solocello tager teten som ridderen uden frygt og dadel.
Det er vidtløftig dæmonisk musik med rensende klange til alle dulmegemytters døsige lyster.
Toke Møldrup er nu fri kunstner efter sin prominente tid i Copenhagen Phil. Verden åbner sig. CD-sættet Cello Libris , optaget i maj 2018, er også en avantgarderejse for Møldrups instrument, en David Techler-cello fra 1697. Den vågner til dåd i den drypstenshule, som orkestret fremmaner i Dürer-satsen, syngende sin vuggevise i et spindelvævsfunklende univers, hvor en malstrøm er uden malice. Man er i aldeles trygge kløer.
Det andet værk suger også fra litterære rødder. Geoffrey Gordons Fathoms for cello og piano skatter til Shakespeares bittersøde eventyrkomedie Stormen og fremmaner på skift det indledende uvejr, kærlighedsparret Ferdinand og Mirandas møde, luftånden Ariels formåenhed, møgdyret Calibans fiaskoer, derpå alle den fortryllede øs mange lyde og til slut øjeblikket, hvor magikeren Prospero giver afkald på sin magt og sænker sin tryllebog dybt i havet. Fathoms er måleenheden seks fod, på dansk favne, som det klinger magisk i Niels Brunses pastelklare oversættelse: »Fem favne dybt din far er lagt/ af hans ben koral er skabt/ af hans øjne perlers pragt/ intet af ham er fortabt.«
Geoffrey Gordons berømte kollega Thomas Adès (f. 1971) har prøvet kræfter med hele The Tempest som opera (2004) og delvist fejlet, især på grund af en tåbelig librettos bessermachen. I Gordons ordløse Five impressions of Shakespeare er der både nødstedtes skrig og skibsspanters splintren i Møldrups fabuløse spil. Hjertekvababbelse i de elskendes møde, men sandelig også dyne på, så vi fornemmer deres trygge lykke. Ariel perler frem, først i klaveret med den adrætte Steven Beck ved tasterne, men så aldeles flyvsk, når Møldrup giver den viltre og let maliciøse ånd vinger. Vanskabningen Caliban ifølge med sin heksemor, Sycorax, bor i celloens mest jordslåede dybder, for så med voldsomme gebærder at prøve at vinde frihed. Da øens lyde indtager deres magiske herskerstatus, er klaver og cello på fuldblodsopdagelsesrejse fra det sitrende til det knoldesparkende.
Endelig kommer »Prospero drowns his book« som finale, snerrende, jublende, definitivt. Fyldt med drukneberedte klange, der river skumlerier med sig i deres kurs mod dybet. Ingen lutrende melankoli som hos Shakespeare. Men drabelig vellyd.
Full meal for litterater kommer der så i Geoffrey Gordons Ode to a Nightingale for blandet kor og solocello. Uropført 16. maj 2018 som bestillingsværk af Mogens Dahl Kammerkor og ved den lejlighed DR-transmitteret. Med Dahl som dirigent og Møldrup på cello celebreres digteren John Keats’ romantiske digt om nattergalens balsamiske og dog stakkede lægedom for den iturevne menneskesjæl. Seks svulmende strofer, alle trykt på CD-coverets inderside med »My heart aches« (»Mit hjerte pines«) som det søndrende anslag for et menneske, der både kender glemslens flod Lethe med dens sorte løb og kan sanse nattergalen som en svirrende trænymfe i dryadernes flok, flaksende i celloens strenge.
Keats er lige så mytologisk fuldbefaren som Shakespeare. Her er det månedronningen, der anråbes, hinsides det jordiske nu: »Her, hvor folk sidder og lytter til hinandens knurren/ Hvor ungdom blegner, bliver genfærds-tynd, og dør«.
Stedse er celloen som den lyttende, der forbinder stroferne, eller som underverdenens sjælefører, der skønt anfægtet ikke ændrer det anråbende menneskes kurs. Hele forårets flora blomstrer op, men ikke jublende besunget, blot manisk observeret. »Jeg har halvvejs elsket den bekvemme Død«. Koret folder sig så helt dårende ud i næstsidste strofe: »Du var ikke født til at dø, udødelige fugl/ Ingen grådige generationer kom dig til livs/ Den stemme jeg hører i natten, der går på hæld/ blev hørt i svunden tid af kejsere og klovne«.
Da sidste strofe klinger ud, og celloen tier, fatter vi, hvem den mangestrengede og nu bortfløjne var. Cello Libris er en oprivende sand og kategorisk hjertestyrkning.

BACH Cello Suites Revisited, BWV 1007–1012

Jerry Dubins, FANFARE April/May 2018

“…This is an extraordinarily beautiful and compelling set of Bach’s cello suites…”

BACH Cello Suites, BWV 1007–10121. Cello Suite No. 1 in D Revisited (rev. by Viggo Mangor) Toke Møldrup (vc); Elisabeth Zeuthen Schneider (vn); Kirstine Zeuthen Schneider (vn); Viggo Mangor (org) — BRIDGE 9503A/B (2 CDs: 137:02)

If this were just another recording of Bach’s six Suites for Solo Cello, I would begin by telling you that Danish cellist, Toke Møldrup, plays with a tone of rare beauty and a musically intuitive insight into these works that make for compelling listening, and that his entry into this very crowded field is a true standout. I would then conclude by urging you to acquire Møldrup’s extraordinarily absorbing set of Bach’s cello suites, regardless of how many others you might already own, for this one is exceptional. And with that I would end this review, for there would be nothing further to say.

There is, however, a good deal more to say because there is more to this set than the six standard suites, and that is what makes this release not just irresistible for Møldrup’s exquisite playing, but what makes it unique. Following Møldrup’s readings of the six suites in their expected order and as-written form, the cellist is joined by Viggo Mangor, playing a chamber organ, and violinists Elisabeth Zeuthen Schneider and Kirstine Zeuthen Schneider in an “envisaged”—and I must say, inspired—version of the Suite No. 1, transposed to D Major, as a Baroque trio sonata. The handiwork is essentially that of Mangor, but it was brainstormed in close collaboration with Møldrup, and it is as beautiful and authentic sounding as if Bach had written it himself.

Understand that this is no simple arranging of the original cello part into three voices of a trio sonata in which the two violins and right hand of the keyboard part have the melody and engage in contrapuntal interplay, while the left hand of the keyboard part is the “basso,” reinforced by the cello playing the bass line. No, Mangor and Møldrup’s extensive and very detailed album note, with a musical example, explains and illustrates how the derivation and embellishment of the lines are implicit within and emerge naturally from the contours of Bach’s melodies, as a fully formed sculpture is embedded within and materializes from the block of granite.

I admit to being a bit concerned at first, as I made my way through much of the booklet’s abstract analytics, that what was being put forth was a philosophical argument or apology for reinterpreting the urtext of Bach’s cello suites in some heretofore-radical way. But I needn’t have worried, and neither should you. Møldrup’s readings do impress as being a bit freer than most, as to where phrases are broken, breaths taken, and agogic accents applied; but in the playing of the six suites themselves, Møldrup is well within the norm of tempos, articulation, and interpretive consensus. What truly distinguishes his readings for me is how enlivening they are. It’s as if he gives them a good shake to get the dust of 300 years out of them, and suddenly the colors are vibrant again.

The note tells us that Møldrup plays a 1697 Tecchler cello, courtesy of the Augustinus Foundation in Suites I through V, and in Suite VI and Suite I Revisited, a mid-18th-century Italian cello, rebuilt as a five-string instrument in 2016 by Copenhagen luthier Birger Kulmbach. I could be wrong, but my ear tells me that the 1697 Tecchler has been refitted to modern standards because it doesn’t sound like a period instrument. Indeed, all of the musicians here are players in modern Danish orchestras and chamber ensembles, and violinist Kirstine Schneider studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music and the Manhattan School of Music, and cites Hilary Hahn, Nikolaj Znaider, and the Juilliard and Emerson String Quartets as major influences.

When Møldrup isn’t recording Bach’s suites, he returns to his post as solo cellist of the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra, and frequently appears as a soloist with other Danish orchestras and chamber groups. He is the recipient of Queen Ingrid’s Honorary Award for his achievements and contributions to Denmark’s cultural scene.

I conclude where I began. This is an extraordinarily beautiful and compelling set of Bach’s cello suites—with the added bonus of the Mangor “Suite I Revisited”—which I strongly urge you to acquire, regardless of how many others you might already have.


Jean-Yves Duperron – February 2018

“…His playing is rich, elegant, warm and especially redolent of the Baroque style…”

“Apart from versatile solo projects and concerts in Denmark and abroad, cellist Toke Møldrup enjoys a career as solo cellist of the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra and is a sought-after teacher at The Royal Danish Academy of Music. On this recording he plays a David Tecchler cello (Rome, 1697) for Suites 1-5, and a mid-18th century Italian cello, rebuilt as a 5-string cello in 2016 by luthier Birger Kulmbach for the Suite No. 6 and Suite 1 Revisited.” {Bridge Records}

If he was slightly heavier and wore a powdered wig, it would be hard to differentiate between this cover picture and the iconic image of the master himself used on many books and album covers. The clothes he’s wearing, the way he’s holding the sheet of music and especially his facial expression well replicate the original. I love this album cover.

Numerous recordings of the Bach Cello Suites have been released over the years, and yet only a limited few, in my opinion, qualify as a worthwhile listening experience. Too many suffer from a lack of true musicianship, and feature a skilled person playing the cello but not the music. It doesn’t matter how well you’ve mastered an instrument, if you can’t project and express music properly through that instrument, then what’s the point. The Bach Cello Suites in particular are compositions meant to be performed, because of their wide tonal and expressive range, via a cello, and not on a cello. There’s a huge difference between the two points of view. And Toke Møldrup shares this opinion when he says: “To me personally, however, the most important thing is the word instrument itself: a means, a machine that – correctly used – is capable of channeling music out into the world.” Now isn’t that exactly what being a musician is all about.

His playing is rich, elegant, warm and especially redolent of the Baroque style. He has a way of isolating the melodic line from its underlying bass support, and of accentuating the key harmonic notes, which always translates into a profoundly musical experience. You can feel his bow against the strings rather than hear it. The recording itself, engineered by Viggo Mangor is close and warm, with precisely the right proportion of tangible air around it for a realistic on-stage presence.

The reason why this CD includes the term “Revisited” in its title is because it features the world première recording of the Suite No. 1 reworked by Viggo Mangor (also a musician, teacher and musicologist) for a Baroque chamber ensemble which includes Elisabeth Zeuthen Schneider on violin, Kirstine Zeuthen Schneider on violin, Viggo Mangor on chamber organ and of course Toke Møldrup on cello. I use the term “reworked” because it utilizes only the skeletal backbone of Bach’s music and in doing so generates a whole new piece that sounds fresh and is devoid of clichés. It’s like hearing a newly discovered Baroque composition for the first time. Now that’s what I call an added bonus.


A Danish Knight of the Round Table
Politiken, 5/12-17

J.S. Bach: Cello Suites. Toke Møldrup, Bridge

Bach’s suites for solo cello are every cellist’s holy grail, making Danish cellist Toke Møldrup officially a knight of the Round Table. In his hands, the six suites resonate with the wood splinters of past master Pablo Casals, but his grip is firm and without hesitation. The listener is met with a virile tone and the sound of rapid fingers against wood. Although the music is difficult, it has to flow, and Toke Møldrup’s Bach emerges pure and clean. Athletic, with a sense of muscles right beneath the skin. Møldrup has reflected on the role of the interpreter and even acquired a five-string cello for a richly embellished version of the final suite. His historic backward glance is thorough. With the help of colleague Viggo Mangor, he has uncovered the essence of the score and transformed the music into chamber music along the way. As a result, the double album also presents the first suite as a beautiful trio sonata with violins and organ.

English translation: Thilo Reinhard

…Danish cellist Toke Møldrup’s recording of the Suites is more conventional than Hekkema’s, but no less captivating. He opts for brisk tempos which, paired with his light touch, lend the gigues, courantes and gavottes unusual dynamism. Møldrup caps the record with Viggo Mangor’s Suite I Revisited, an arrangement of the First Suite for a small Baroque ensemble that extrapolates its harmonic possibilities into intriguing new dimensions. Available at AllMusic…

Valdemar Lønsted, Information 12.1.2020


“Det er sandsynligt, at man som almindelig lytter må bruge nogen tid på at vænne sig til Toke Møldrups nyorientering i disse franske dansesuiter”

På genvisit hos Bach

Til sidst et beundringværdigt projekt med cellisten Toke Møldrup, som sammen med sin producer, Viggo Mangor, har sat sig for at se på Bachs seks suiter for solocello med nye øjne.

Det er en interessant diskussion, som pladsen ikke levner mulighed for referere mere dybtgående, men essensen er ønsket om at finde en ny balance mellem nodebilledets mere eller mindre skjulte lagdelinger. Og at genvinde en frihed til blandt andet at udsmykke de melodiske linjer ganske vidtgående, som musikerne på Bachs tid angiveligt har praktiseret.

Det er sandsynligt, at man som almindelig lytter må bruge nogen tid på at vænne sig til Toke Møldrups nyorientering i disse franske dansesuiter, som man kan kalde cellisternes moderlige hav, men her og nu må jeg vurdere den spontant over for ældre indspilninger med to prominente danske cellister.

Suiternes førstesatser hedder præludier, en fri form med skalaer, gentagne figurer, brudte akkorder, hvorunder man ofte hører bariolage, dvs. en løs dyb streng, der klinger med som en slags bordun.

I præludiet fra nr. 3 i C-dur excellerer Møldrup med et energisk flow og en smuk egalitet – som et langt harmonisk åndedrag og så at sige ingen fod på bremsen.

Morten Zeuthen (udgivet på Classico i 1994) foretager en mere varieret rejse. Med mikropauser og eftertanker, ekspressive betoninger, mere stædigt insisterende på den dybe tone i bariolagen, faktisk som en sanger ville frasere musikken.

Med det gamle koryfæ Erling Bløndal Bengtsson (udgivet på Danacord i 1984) er vi endnu fjernere fra Møldrups straight Bach. Han giver sig god tid, bevæger sig syngende og søgende gennem tonerankerne, tempoet varierer ganske meget, en enkelt tone kan få en intenst syngende farve, som at høre en forfinet recitator fremsige et romantisk kvad.

Forskellene er lige så markante i dansesatserne, eksemplet kunne være de to kendte bourréer også fra 3. suite. Her tager Møldrup sig en del friheder, tilføjer små udsmykninger og også ekstratoner, men udtrykket er generelt for ensartet, ligesom der ingen videre forskel er på den udadvendte dur-bourré og den indadskuende mol-bourré. Ligesom man savner en mere dansende puls, sådan som vi får den hos Zeuthen, for hos ham smiler og græder melodierne med en dejlig kropslighed. Bløndal lyder her altmodisch, bleg og stedvis for udpindet.

Suiternes prøvesten må være sarabanderne, og juvelen blandt disse kommer fra 5. suite i c-mol. Sarabanden i tredelt takt er en majestætisk tilbageholdt, spansk dans; grundtrinene i nr. 5 er imidlertid udviskede hos Bach, og i stedet kan der fremtræde en sublim meditation hen over taktstregerne.

For mig er netop denne sats kronen på Bløndals sæt, her hører vi en natsort Shakespearesk monolog, en bøn i dyb ro om lindring og barmhjertighed. Zeuthen lægger sig op ad denne tilstand af forladthed, men undertiden mere anråbende. Møldrup bekender sig derimod til dansens højtidelige momentum, et minut hurtigere end de to kolleger, og dermed får musikken en næsten foruroligende fremdrift.

Men det er især motivernes anderledes sammenbundne karakter, der gør et stærkt indtryk og godtgør endnu en gang, at uanset hvorledes man vender og drejer denne musik i prismet, vil den lyse med et præg af evigheden.







New York Times

Review: Danish Piano Trio Shares Well-Loved Sounds and Little-Known Gems



From left, the violinist Lars Bjornkjaer, Katrine Gislinge and Toke Moldrup. Credit Chris Lee

The debut recording and debut recital of a chamber ensemble are often made up of the same music. It’s only efficient, after all, to apply the hard work from the recording studio to the high-pressure environment of the concert hall. But when the impressive Danish Piano Trio gave its American debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall on Thursday, the program contained only one of the little-known gems from its inaugural disc, “Danish Romantic Piano Trios.” Instead, the ensemble’s members, the pianist Katrine Gislinge, the violinist Lars Bjornkjaer and the cellist Toke Moldrup, took the opportunity to introduce themselves as players of wide-ranging interests in two contemporary works.

The concert opened with the melodic and impetuous Piano Trio in F (Op. 42) by Niels Gade, a Danish composer who studied with Mendelssohn and briefly succeeded him as chief conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. It closed with a fluid and energetic rendition of Mendelssohn’s own well-loved Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, offering a study in similarities and inviting reflection on what made one a repertory staple and the other an obscurity.

Two contemporary works that were written for the players showed a different side of their artistry. One was the piano trio “Abgesänge” by the Danish contemporary composer Bent Sorensen, the other Geoffrey Gordon’s “Fathoms,” a cello-and-piano suite based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” for which the American pianist Steven Beck joined Mr. Moldrup.

It made sense to shine a spotlight on Mr. Moldrup: With his big-hearted sound and deeply communicative playing, he is the star of the trio and a soloist of growing renown in his native Denmark.

The interaction among the three players was always eloquent, their attentiveness to one another’s gestures and phrases consummate. It was interesting to see the Old World lusciousness with which they approached Gade and Mendelssohn preserved, in pared-down fashion, in “Abgesänge,” an alluring collection of brittle but lyrical swan songs. (The German title translates as “valediction.”) Despite the difference in musical language, there was a heart-on-sleeve vulnerability in this music that sat easily alongside the 19th-century selections.

The engaging and colorful “Fathoms” links to the past with unabashedly programmatic, extroverted storytelling. Using a range of extended techniques and unusual textures, Mr. Gordon vividly sketches characters and scenes from “The Tempest.” Caliban’s gruffness, Ariel’s quicksilver curiosity, the glowing romance between Ferdinand and Miranda all came alive in Mr. Moldrup and Mr. Beck’s intense playing. The final movement imagines Prospero drowning his book, with Mr. Moldrup gradually tuning the bottom string of his cello downward, creating the unnerving sensation of something sinking, slowly, to ever darker depths.


Politiken, 2. maj 2011, Henrik Friis


Toke Møldrup og Vilde Frang er uden tvivl blandt de mest fremtrædende musikere i Norden.

Som henholdsvis årgang 80 og 86 kombinerer de fantastisk teknik med masser af karisma og fandenivoldske tilgange til de undertiden så bedagede klassiske værker.

De giver den kort sagt alt, hvad den kan trække, og de rå resultater, helt ude i hjørnerne af de musikalske udtryk, giver masser af fans…

Møldrups passion
Navne er til gengæld ligegyldige for Toke Møldrup og hans israelske klavermakker Yaron Kohlberg. Det handler om at finde passionen, hvor end den er, og med fem vidt forskellige komponister fra det 20. århundrede er deres nye cd en rigtig broget omgang.

De spiller begge med præcis den nerve og det temperament, som man har lært at forvente af Møldrup de seneste år siden hans øretæveindbydende, suveræne debutkoncert i 2007. 

Som moderne romantiker går han altid efter yderkanterne i et sæt noder. Det er bare ikke alt på hans cd, der helt tåler det.

Mens de to musikere leverer humoristiske dobbelttydigheder og skarpskårne pointer i Stravinskys specielle genkomponering af wienerklassikken i ’Italiensk Suite’ med stort overskud – og forvandler den bittersøde ironi i Sjostakovitj’ ’Sonate for cello og klaver’ til ligefremme fraser – er Gaspar Cassadós ’Suite for solocello’ bare for meget. 

Hele tiden vekslende mellem løb til storladne, vibrerende punkter og masser af små tomme klange og klicheprægede krøller som stivnede spanske danse. Det er efter første lytning stof, der passer den iltre Møldrup godt, men efter et par gange bliver det klart, at der ikke er meget nedenunder.

Møldrup har så meget potentiel energi at tilføre selv de mest afdæmpede noder, at det er spild at bruge dem på Cassadós virtuoserier. 

Den pointe gælder også i vid udstrækning indslagene med Alberto Ginasteras ’Pampeana nr. 2’ og glemte Hans Bottermunds ’Variationer over et tema af Paganini’. Det er altid en oplevelse at høre Toke Møldrup prøve sit talent af, og Yaron Kohlberg er bestemt ikke en mindre musiker. Men denne cd er altså bedst at zappe lidt i.

Dansk talent i international klasse

  1. juni 2010, Valdemar lønsted, information

Dansk talent i international klasse

En trompetist og en cellist fik musikkritikernes årlige kunstnerpris, og de takkede med eminente solopræstationer

Hvert år uddeler dagbladenes klassiske musikkritikere to kunstnerpriser, fortrinsvis til yngre musikere, sangere, dirigenter eller ensembler, og seancen foregår altid i Tivolis Koncertsal bakket op af havens symfoniorkester.

Torsdag aften blev årets prismodtagere trompetisten Michael Frank Møller og cellisten Toke Møldrup, begavet med hver 30.000 kr., og de kvitterede begge med eminent solistisk optræden.

Politikens musikredaktør, Thomas Michelsen, motiverede valget ved bl.a. at karakterisere de to musikere som usvigelige krumtapper i deres respektive orkestre.

Michael Frank Møller er flere gange blevet fremhævet i disse spalter. Han er Radiosymfonikernes blændende solotrompetist og har eksempelvis været en velgørende sikkerhedsfaktor i orkestrets mange Mahler- opførelser i de seneste sæsoner.

Møller er en efterspurgt herre. Messinghøjborgen i europæisk orkesterkultur, London Symphony Orchestra, har haft bud efter ham, og et mere fornemt ridderslag kan man næsten ikke få som solotrompetist.

Toke Møldrup er koncertmester i Sjællands Symfoniorkester, og dermed også i Tivolisymfonikerne, dog kun på halvtid, for han har rygende travlt som kammermusiker i ind og udland.

Møldrup er et sultent konkurrencemenneske, han har vundet flere trofæer, han elsker udfordringerne i den nykomponerede musik og har fået tilegnet værker af Per Nørgård og Simon Steen-Andersen. Og han er medlem af det netop jubilerende nymusikensemble Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen.

Frydefuld Haydn

Haydns vidunderlige perle af en trompetkoncert var i gamle dage Giro 413-stof. Og det forstår man så godt, ved siden af mig sad en ældre dame og nynnede med på det hele.

Michael Frank Møller indtog scenen med en rolig autoritet, og denne ro forplantede sig straks til salen, for man sidder altid en lille smule med livet i hænderne, når en messingblæser står frem som koncertsolist. Bare et knæk, en forpasset ansats, som en nedrevet bom i ridebanespringning, giver et lille stik i hjertet. Men den herlige trompetist førte os bombesikkert gennem de velkendte strofer med sin smidige embouchure, lysende potente klang, knejsende toptoner og fine tungestødsvarianter. Begge solokadencer var en udelt fryd i sig selv, en skyhøj linedans uden sikkerhedsnet.

Fantastisk Prokofjev

Toke Møldrup valgte at præsentere sig i Prokofjevs monstrøse Sinfonia concertante, skrevet til legenden Mstislav Rostropovitj i 1952. Her gik koncerten op i et højere gear, orkestret blev betragteligt større, musikken mere kompliceret, og solistrollen dermed betydeligt mere udfordrende. Lad det være sagt med det samme: Toke Møldrup ydede det rent ud fantastiske i det 40 minutter lange værk. Det er både forpint og ekstatisk musik, skabt under stalinismens åg som modstandskamp og hyldest til den utopiske frihed. Alle tog ansvaret på sig: orkester, dirigent og solist.

Møldrup så at sige voldtog sit instrument for at overvinde de tekniske udfordringer, det ekstreme registerspil, glidende dobbeltgreb, furiøse skoleridt hen over strengene. Hvorfor også en af dem pludselig sprang i den mægtige andensats!

Møldrup måtte stoppe og slog ud med armene. Orkestret slukkede for motoren. Solisten forsvandt for at sætte en ny streng på, dirigenten gav hurtigt anvisning på, hvor i noderne man skulle genoptage opførelsen. Man ventede fem minutter.

Møldrup kom tilbage, overskyllet af bifaldet, satte sig, og så tog de tråden op. Og det ejendommelige var, at opførelsen faktisk blev endnu bedre, mindre anspændt, klangligt smukkere. Helt i pagt med finalens afsluttende variationer med små citater fra Peter og Ulven. Sikke en solist!

Musikanmelderringens Kunstnerpriser 2010. Mozart: Ouverture til Figaros bryllup. Haydn: Trompetkoncert. Prokofjev: Sinfonia concertante for cello og orkester. Michael Frank Møller (trompet). Toke Møldrup (cello). Tivolis Symfoniorkester. Dirigent: Mika Eichenholz. Tivolis Koncertsal den 17. juni

Cellist Toke Møldrup is tomorrow’s man

Classical debut (Rating: 6 hearts of 6) Reviewer Thomas Michelsen, Politiken, Friday March 11, 2005 “Not only did the evening’s programme offer weighty and challenging works. They were performed with a remarkable mastery of technical details. A mastery which Toke Møldrup – whose debut concert this was – displayed with musical and expressive confidence, but never recklessly. As a musician he maintains the beauty of the instrument’s melodious sound, regardless of the musical landscape in which he finds himself. Two very different solo performances were at the centre of the 24-year-old musician’s programme. A solo suite by Bach – notably the most difficult of the six, the last one in D major – and a solo sonata by Per Nørgård. Bach’s demands for ascents were easily met by the player. The playingwas pure and buoyant until the last double stop. And then Nørgård, in two wildly different movements in Solo Sonata No. 2, offered Møldrup a chance to shine, with frost clear Nordic moods, expressed in clean intervals, and with a dramatically challenging last movement. In addition to the two solo works, Møldrup was accompanied in Beethoven’s last cello sonata and Grieg’s Sonata in A minor. Full honours to a musician who – accompanied by the intensely alert Tanja Zapolski at the piano – triumphed in both pieces. The Beethoven sonata made a strong impression with its second movement allowing full expression of pain and the finale with its knotty, steep, sharply defined fugal work. The Grieg sonata offered a surprise. The Norwegian romantic’s generally disliked, extremely broad cello sonata is not often heard, and is rightly criticized for having a finale that goes on and on without adding anything much to what has already been said. Møldrup might as well have chosen for instance one of Brahms’ sonatas. Instead he and Tanja Zapolski took on the challenge. With surprising intensity and strength he held our attention in a vice-like grip until the very last note. An achievement in a rather unrewarding work. At the end we were given two luxurious encores from the collection of solo virtuoso pieces for cello. First a tempestuous round of variations on a theme by Paganini, with left hand pizzicato and all sorts of devilry. No need to comment. It was totally convincing. The rare reviewer’s six hearts must be awarded, in spite of the fact that this was a debut. Actually, Møldrup is not a complete novice. Among other achievements he has already performed on an extremely successful Beethoven CD with the Paizo Quartet on the Classico label.”

Koncert Tønderegnens Musikforening 15.9.2013

Toke Møldrup og Yaron Kohlberg– d. 15. september 2013

Følsomt, fyrigt, flot.

Publikum havde næsten ikke fået sig indstillet på at lytte, da Toke Møldrup og Yaron Kohlberg overraskende hurtigt  satte i med et festfyrværkeri af toner, klange og rytmer i argentineren Ginasteras Pampas-rapsodi for cello og klaver.

Toke Møldrup har på rekordtid spillet sig ind på den internationale musik-scene som et af de mest begavede talenter.  Nu forstår også Tønders musikpublikum hvorfor. Han spiller med en strålende teknik, der tillader, at han kan spille med et temperament , ja med en passion, der er sjælden at opleve.  Cellotonen er sart, men smuk og varm, især i det høje diskantleje, Og så lever han med, også med kropssprog,  i hver eneste tone,

I israeleren Yaron Kohlberg  har han fundet den ideelle medspiller.  Også Yaron var teknisk suveræn, og deres samspil var sublimt med rytmisk præcision og gensidig musikalsk forståelse.  Man kunne både se og høre, de nød at spille og at spille sammen.

Der stod tre kendte cellosonater på programmet: Beethoven, Debussy og Cësar Franck. Men ikke spillet traditionelt.  Det var tydeligt, at Toke og Yaron på moderne romantisk vis søgte helt ud i yderkanterne af nodebilledet.  Både i den følsomme ende og i den energiske, fyrige.

Heller ikke ekstranummeret var traditionelt. Tilhørerne fik ikke et bravour-nummer at gå hjem på, men et stilfærdigt stykke af Ravel for violin og klaver, omskrevet for cello og klaver.

Det var en følsom, fyrig og flot indledning på en sæson, der tegner spændende og varieret.

Karlo Christensen, Tønderegnens Musikforening

A great cello performance opens the season …

Thomas Michelsen, Politiken

“… – Young Toke Møldrup’s interpretation and moulding of Dvorak’s Cello Concerto was the definitive highlight of the concert. Surprisingly, Denmark has several young cellists of high international standing. Does the cello express something essential in the Danish national character? Toke Møldrup mastered the combination of intensity and nobility which this concerto demands. Sound and phrasing/shaping had a wonderfully lyrical expression. And the collaboration with Ceccato and the orchestra worked well. In his encore, a movement by the great cello master Caspar Cassado, Toke Møldrup displayed other aspects of his great talent, the folksy strolling player in an extremely virtuoso, but popular Spanish style …”

Busy weekend for brilliant young cellist

“… Toke Møldrup is one of the young recipients of the Jacob Gade Prize. And this weekend he played cello! Møldrup, 24, stepped in to cover for an absent colleague – and rescued Saturday’s concert at Fredens Church. Together with Copenhagen Soloists he played Haydn’s First Cello Concerto with great conviction and seemed extremely well prepared. And when another colleague called in sick, Møldrup also rescued Sunday’s chamber concert at the National Museum, this time as a member of the Paizo Quartet. The four strings’ interpretation of Mozart’s “Dissonance” Quartet was simply brilliant. There are no superfluous notes in this musician. The music is alive every second – moving up or down, to and fro. No two notes sound the same. This is how music should always be played …”

Sven-David Sandström Nordic Mass

Toke Moldtup CD - Nordic Mass
Toke Moldtup CD – Nordic Mass

Sven-David Sandström: Nordic Mass Toke Møldrup, violoncello, Mogens Dahl Chamber Choir/Mogens Dahl Exlibris EXLCD30164 (82’·DDD)

For the musical curious with time on their hands, as well as a penchant for superb a capella singing, this monumental celebration of Nordic (natural phenomena) should prove an intriguing and highly satisfying acquisition… The ”Storm” movement (track 3) is probably the most extrovert moment on the disc which is considerably boldened by the virtuoso playing of the Copenhagen Philharmonic’s solo cellist Toke Møldrup, in providing an extra timbral voice, ramps up the emotional intensity, especially when he ascends towards those giddying Protecting Veil altitudes. At other times he acts as the protagonist, and for five minutes takes centre stage for his solo ”Ragas and Raginis”

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Malcolm Riley, Grammophone, January 2015