Jan Vogler and Mira Wang: A Musical Marriage Cellist Jan Vogler and violinist Mira Wang are accomplished soloists. And both are married — to each other. They discuss the challenges of juggling independent careers, marriage and parenthood. They also perform three selections.
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Jan Vogler and Mira Wang: A Musical Marriage

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Jan Vogler and Mira Wang: A Musical Marriage

Jan Vogler and Mira Wang: A Musical Marriage

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.


SIEGEL: The violinist is Mira Wang, born in China. She's lucky to be young enough to have started playing after the Cultural Revolution was done with and Western music was permitted.


SIEGEL: The cellist is Jan Vogler, who grew up in East Germany, in a family of musicians. Here in our studio Wang and Vogler were playing a prelude by composer Reinhold Gliere. They are a pair of accomplished international soloists who are married, to each other. And they live, where else, in New York City. How often they're both in the same place, that's another matter.

VOGLER: Most of the time it happens that we're playing in different cities and call each other after the concert and see how it went. One example would be last November I was in Dresden, played with New York Philharmonic and Lorin Maazel, and on the same day Mira was playing in New York with Leon Botstein and the American Symphony. And so I could first call her and say my concert went fine, and then wait and then six hours later call her again and she said mine, too.

SIEGEL: But the assumption is, in your schedule, then, you're going to be continents apart quite a bit.

MIRA WANG: Yeah. It's quite a bit. I think you get used to it. You get to know how to make it work and it's also nice to have six hours difference that you can juggle.


SIEGEL: That's the bright side of being separated by an ocean. Now, directly behind Jan, behind you, inside the, I believe it's Mira's violin case which is open, are the pictures of young children.

VOGLER: Yes. We have two children. Two girls, Brittney and Cecilia. They are three and five.

SIEGEL: And how do they fit into this schedule that the two of you have?

VOGLER: My theory is they have a bit wilder life than most children their age, with traveling more. But we see them a lot, actually, because we really spend a lot of time with them. And when I'm there I'm there fulltime. I'm at home practicing in the morning, maybe spending the afternoon with them. So I think they're happy children and so far they have no choice anyway. They have to adapt to our life.


SIEGEL: And you agree with this assessment, Mira?

WANG: Yeah. I think it sounds strange, but actually I think they love traveling and seeing different parts of the world. And also I think it's very important for us, I speak for Jan in this case, that we do have a family not only career. And especially for me, I find it's most important.

SIEGEL: Well, do you play together at home? I mean, you have, obviously you're both concertizing separately, but do you actually ever play pieces together?

VOGLER: We do. We figured out pretty early when we met that we can play together without killing each other, which is not the case with every couple. So we enjoy it. We're very critical and we are also somewhat each others' coaches.

SIEGEL: That sounds potentially dangerous, what you just said.

VOGLER: No, I think it keeps everything fresh because we have a responsibility to the audience, especially when we play together because we could say, oh, it's so nice, we are a couple, we have fun together playing on stage, and I think we have a huge responsibility and so we have to be very critical and keep awake and not to think we are just doing fine.

SIEGEL: Well, why don't you play something for us that you do play together? What will it be?

WANG: It's going to be a piece by Schulhoff and it's the 2nd Movement of the Duo for Violin and Cello, it's called Zingaresca.

VOGLER: Erwin Schulhoff was a composer who died young, tragically. He was in the concentration camp in Theresienstadt, not far from Dresden, from the city where he also lived. And he was very much discovered in the '90s and that's one of his wonderful pieces, and I think if he would have lived longer he'd have been one of the great composers of the 20th century.

SIEGEL: Was this a piece that he wrote in the camp?


SIEGEL: This is Schulhoff's Duet for Violin and Cello, Movement...

WANG: 2nd Movement.

SIEGEL: 2nd Movement.

(Soundbite of Wang and Vogler playing Schulhoff's Duo for Violin and Cello 2nd Movement)

SIEGEL: Bravo. That was great. Just watching the energy that the two of you expend in playing that piece, I was just wondering what it takes out of you to do an entire recital when you're playing at that pace for an hour or more.

WANG: I think we're trained for it, and on the stage, actually the time, it's not very long. So I think once the concentration's there then the energy will be there.

VOGLER: I think it's also, often people think about violin and cello, oh, that's probably going to be boring in a concert because it's so little power on stage, but I think they can make quite a bit of noise, two string instruments.

SIEGEL: Yes, yes, quite a bit. Given how exerting it is to play and the lives that you have, after you had kids, I mean, were you out concertizing, you know, the next week, or what did you do?

WANG: Yeah. It was a little crazy. Before I had the first child I decided I'm going to keep the life I had. The child, I definitely want to have one, but I will just keep going. Then, of course, it was three weeks later, after I gave birth, I had to go on the stage playing Beethoven's Violin Concerto. I didn't realize having a child really is a big deal.

SIEGEL: Yes, yes, yes.

WANG: Then Jan, you know, as happens in our crazy life, he left the day after the child's birth because he had to work. And I said okay, I'm going to deal with this, and I found somebody to help me. Then I went on the stage and it's an experience one has to go through.

SIEGEL: I'm amazed that you'd, three weeks later, be able to play the Beethoven Concerto on stage.

WANG: Yeah. You decide to do something then discipline comes in. I guess whether I'm Chinese or grew up in China, I think I always remember discipline can get you far. You don't have to become cold, but discipline is something that will train you very well.

SIEGEL: What's the shortest piece that you could play together?

VOGLER: We could play a beginning of something. There's a very famous piece, which (unintelligible) brought to the country. It's a Passacaglia by Handel, arranged by Johann Halvorsen for violin and cello.


SIEGEL: That was great. Thank you both very much for talking and for playing for us today.

VOGLER: Thanks for having us.

WANG: It was a pleasure. Nice to be here.

SIEGEL: Violinist Mira Wang and Cellist Jan Vogler. You can hear even more of their music at our website npr.org. This is a recording from a CD they made of the music of Saint-Saens, from The Muse and the Poet.


NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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