»Elbphilharmonie Session« mit Julia Hagen

Elbphilharmonie Sessions: Julia Hagen

The young star cellist Julia Hagen fills the Elbphilharmonie car park with music by Sofia Gubaidulina

Julia Hagen has long been playing in the very top league of the international concert scene. As a soloist and chamber musician, the Austrian-born performer has appeared at the world’s great concert venues, delighting audiences with her technical perfection and profound musicality.

In her »Elbphilharmonie Session«, she turns her attention to Sofia Gubaidulina’s Preludes for Solo Cello. In these short movements, the contemporary composer explores the diversity of the cello – exciting, virtuoso musical studies in the special atmosphere of the Elbphilharmonie’s multi-storey car park.

Julia Hagen
Julia Hagen © Sophie Wolter

The Artist

The young cellist Julia Hagen is one of of her generation’s leading soloists. Naturalness, warmth and a willingness to take risks – she impresses the listener with these qualities in a wide range of repertoire and changing musical line-ups. Having grown up in a legendary musical family in Salzburg, she is now a sought-after chamber musician, following fleet of foot in the footsteps of her father, who plays the cello in the renowned Hagen Quartet. Her musical partners include such big names as Igor Levit, Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, Katia Buniatishvili and the Artemis Quartet. Together with her long-standing piano partner Alexander Ullman, the young musician also caused a sensation at her recital debut in the Elbphilharmonie Recital Hall in September 2023.

Julia Hagen was already a soloist as a young teenager, having enrolled at the Salzburg Mozarteum at the early age of twelve. She went on to complete her studies in Vienna and Berlin. The winner of several prizes, she now performs as a soloist at many of the world’s major concert halls. Her latest solo successes include appearances with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Konzerthausorchester Berlin.

»I love the sound of the cello. I think it’s an instrument that can not only sing, but can speak as well. And that’s just as important in music as singing.«

Julia Hagen

»Elbphilharmonie Session« mit Julia Hagen »Elbphilharmonie Session« mit Julia Hagen © Sophie Wolter
»Elbphilharmonie Session« mit Julia Hagen »Elbphilharmonie Session« mit Julia Hagen © Sophie Wolter
Interview mit Julia Hagen Interview mit Julia Hagen © Sophie Wolter
»Elbphilharmonie Session« mit Julia Hagen »Elbphilharmonie Session« mit Julia Hagen © Sophie Wolter

The music

Ten Preludes for Solo Cello (selection) :Sofia Gubaidulina

1. staccato – legato
2. legato – staccato
4. ricochet
5. sul ponticello – ordinario – sul tasto
7. al taco – da punta d'arco
8. arco – pizzicato

Sofia Gubaidulina (born 1931) has been one of the most important voices in contemporary music for decades. The concert world has long been unthinkable without her fascinating music – sometimes catchy, sometimes demanding, but always uncompromising and expressive. It took a relatively long time for the Russian-born singer to become internationally recognised. She was almost 50 years old and living in a small flat in the centre of Moscow when the famous violinist Gidon Kremer premiered her violin concerto »Offertorium« in Vienna, and the composer quickly became the talk of the town in the »West«. Soon after, the Berlin Wall came down and Sofia Gubaidulina moved to Germany, where she still lives in a village near Hamburg.

Even as a student, Gubaidulina was repeatedly criticised for her new-thinking music. Her intense style was not in keeping with the ideals of propaganda-driven music intended to find favour with the masses, simple and positive. It was none other than Dmitri Shostakovich who constantly encouraged the young Gubaidulina at the time, urging her to abandon all fear and remain true to her own path.

Sofia Gubaidulina
Sofia Gubaidulina © Peter Fischli

Her Preludes for Solo Cello from 1974 likewise date from the early phase of her career. Each of the ten very different movements is dedicated to a specific playing technique in the manner of etudes. »They were originally commissioned as etudes for a cello class in Russia,« explains Julia Hagen. But it goes without saying that the musical content of the Preludes goes far beyond mere technical exercises: these are exciting and effective forays into what the cello is capable of.


»The basic idea behind these movements is of course very technical, but there is so much more music behind it.«

Julia Hagen


The very different playing techniques can be experienced as different characters contrasting with each other or entering into dialogue with each other. For Gubaidulina, for example, the sound of a legato (notes are played without interruption and merge directly into one another) always has something positive or spiritual about it, while the staccato (single, harshly separated notes), in contrast, stands for something negative or ordinary. The density of different expressive forms in her early preludes already hints at the richness and the stringent dramaturgy of Gubaidulina's later compositions. »They contain many elements of future works by me,« says the composer herself.

In focus: Sofia Gubaidulina

The 2024 Hamburg International Music Festival is dedicating a special spotlight to Sofia Gubaidulina – with top-class chamber music programmes and big orchestral concerts.

The Location

The Elbphilharmonie’s multi-storey car park in the is located in the brick base of the concert hall, the former Kaispeicher. The warehouse was completely gutted for the construction of the Elbphilharmonie and, in addition to the new six-storey car park with 500 parking spaces, also houses offices, storage rooms and the Elbphilharmonie World of Instruments. The car park decks are connected via a two-way ramp. The spacious levels and reverberant acoustics provide an ideal stage for Sofia Gubaidulina’s experimental sound studies.

»Elbphilharmonie Session« mit Julia Hagen »Elbphilharmonie Session« mit Julia Hagen © Sophie Wolter
Elbphilharmonie Parkhaus Elbphilharmonie Parkhaus © Thies Raetzke


Udo Potratz Sound

Jasper Techel Director of Photography
Gert Seggewiss Camera Assistant

Julian Conrad Edit

Julika von Werder Production Management

About the series

Artists record exclusive music videos at the Elbphilharmonie and the Laeiszhalle for Elbphilharmonie Sessions – sometimes in unusual locations offstage. Discover the concert halls from the inside. Discover what they sound like.

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