A serene gaze, a warm voice and an alert mind. A master in the body of a young star who still has a long way to go.
He isn’t 30 yet, but he speaks with the maturity and experience that comes from a life dedicated to music.
Ramón Bassal (Barcelona, 1988) carries the musical tradition in his blood. His father is a professional cellist and his mother is a flamenco dancer. Music and dance form a perfect union to create a favourable environment for art. “I became a musician out of habit, given the artistic environment I was born in,” he says, recalling a childhood home full of musicians, dancers, singers and luthiers in a natural environment.
Ever since I was little, I remember hearing my dad play the cello with a very particular sound that was warm and deep; and through his melodies, he would express the beauty of the past. And he adds, with nostalgia: “It would awaken in me a very authentic feeling of appreciating the country and its beauty, a way of life that is unfortunately disappearing now,” he says. Ramón was a precocious musician and inherited the passion for the instrument: “I’ve always wanted to recreate that sound from my father.” Memories of concerts and parties, surrounded by musicians: “When I was sleepy, I would take two chairs and make a bed,” he explains with a smile.
“I became a musician out of habit, given the artistic environment that I was born in”
Like his father, Ramón Bassal studied cello – and piano too – outside Spain, after passing through Switzerland where he studied with Tomas Demenga at the Musik Akademie of Basel, in Lisbon at the Academia Metropolitana with Paulo Gaio Lima and in Amsterdam at the Conservatory with Mick Stirling. He also studied piano at the prestigious Academia Marshall in Barcelona, where he had the opportunity to take classes with the celebrated pianist Alicia de Larrocha. Travelling through many countries allowed him to explore new horizons while always preserving his Mediterranean roots. “My inspiration has always come from here despite my experiences abroad,” explains Ramón, on the process of interpreting a piece of music. Baroque, classical, romantic and contemporary pieces… there is no score or style that he can resist, although composing remains secondary for the time being. “I would like to compose something, but today’s world is inclined towards specialization. It’s necessary to focus on something, and my speciality for now is performing,” he stresses. “I’m an actor rather than a writer,” he confesses.
Like actors, Ramón Bassal transmits emotions through music, and his channel of communication is the cello. “My responsibility is to transmit what the composer feels. It’s important to share the composer’s message with the audience,” he says. For this task, Ramón prepares each piece conscientiously. “I practise 5 or 6 hours per day, and if I don’t play one day, I can feel something is missing,” he says. His connection to his instrument is of vital importance; it’s an extension of his own body. “My mood goes with how my instrument sounds, and if the instrument I play isn’t sounding good, I start to feel poorly,” he says. He also adds: “it’s my voice and it’s my body.” Sometimes the sound of the cello also depends on the place where it’s played. “When it rains for a whole week in Amsterdam, the instrument begins to sound bad. However, when I arrive in Barcelona, it always returns to normal. You can tell it’s a Mediterranean instrument and it’s happy here,” he says.
On playing any piece, “Bach never fails,” he says, although he recognizes that it depends on the moment and his mood.
My greatest reward is having been able to transmit the message of the composer and create those magical and once-in-a-lifetime moments
As a part of Ramón, the instrument needs to have values that go with the person who plays it. It’s invaluable. “The warmth, the projection, the spectrum of musical colours… a good instrument teaches you,” he says. “For me, having a good cello makes me play better and makes me feel better because its potential is unlimited,” he stresses. Regarding luthiers, Ramón doesn’t have a particular idol. Even so, he makes an exception for original and artistic pieces from the Catalan luthier, David Bagué, who has been a friend of Ramón and his family since childhood: “What can I say about David? The best musicians in the world have his instruments!” he says enthusiastically.
Concerts, competitions, recitals, master classes… at every performance there is always a preliminary. An essential rite of preparation for Ramón Bassal. “I prepare myself well in advance to set myself up for the situation. I imagine myself playing and exploring the message that I want to transmit to the audience,” he explains. I also have to prepare the instrument before each performance: “My ritual is to draw the bow.” Lastly, how you dress is also essential: “It’s important to dress well to enjoy an exceptional moment in a unique atmosphere. To be well dressed is a symbol of respect towards what you are going to do, and in my case, if I’m not dressed well, it makes me insecure.” Even so, Ramón recognizes that he copes well with last-minute pressure: “Nerves can create magical moments. They give you ideas and make you express yourself with more power and intensity.” On emotions that are experienced live: “The feeling of time disappears completely and you enter in a world with a different and universal rhythm that connects with the essence of human feeling. His greatest reward is “having been able to transmit the message of the composer and create those magical and once-in-a-lifetime moments,” he says.
Ramón Bassal continues his journey steadily and his musical sensibility transcends the borders of the real world. “Sometimes I dream about a future concert.” And he concludes: “My responsibility is to take what other artists have left behind and transmit it on stage. That is the greatness of the artist.”