Christoph Marks, principal cello of the Gaudier Ensemble

5th January 2017 | Concerts, Inspirations | 4 comments

Sad news on New Year’s Day. The very fine German cellist Christoph Marks has died unexpectedly of heart failure. Christoph (on the right of the photo) was the principal cello of the NDR Radiophilharmonie in Hannover, but we in Britain knew him best as principal cello of the Gaudier Ensemble with whom he played for 28 years. He plays on all the group’s highly-praised recordings on the Hyperion label including the Schubert Octet, a wonderful disc of Strauss Dances, and our CD of Mozart piano concertos. For many years Christoph was also a faithful participant in the International Musicians’ Seminars in Prussia Cove, Cornwall.

The Gaudier Ensemble has an annual festival in the Dorset village of Cerne Abbas. A couple of years after the festival began, I joined in as the pianist, and so I played with Christoph for almost 25 years. It was always heartwarming to see the mutual love affair between Christoph and this picturesque old English village. He found his yearly trip to the Dorset countryside a delightful foil to his life in Germany, and our audiences treasured him. I used to enjoy the sight of him walking down Abbey Street in his stately way, being welcomed back by residents who hadn’t seen him since the previous year. Christoph was tall, slim and handsome with a big smile and a naturally bald head. In every way, he shone under the platform lights. It was a measure of his affection for Cerne that he chose to celebrate his 50th birthday by putting on a concert of solo Bach cello suites in the village church, raising money for charity. He stayed with the same lovely people every summer for 27 years, becoming ‘part of the family’ as they fondly said.

In any chamber group, the members find themselves playing particular ‘roles’. Christoph was our diplomat. He always spoke sincerely and considerately in rehearsal. Whenever there was anything tricky to be discussed, we used to push him forward as the spokesman because we knew he would stay calm and phrase things tactfully (indeed, beautifully: his command of English was as elegant as everything else about him). His long experience of orchestral life in the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and in the NDR Orchestra had trained him in the art of defusing tension with finesse. He, conversely, savoured our ‘English’ way of doing things, divertingly different from what he was used to. He found our working methods fast and slightly chaotic but also fruitful. He was very proud of the standard of playing in the Gaudier’s concerts and recordings.

Christoph was very popular, both inside the group and with its fans. Over the years, he had become a sort of figurehead of the ensemble. He will be greatly missed.

4 Comments

  1. Mary Cohen

    A very fine musician, who will be sadly missed.

    Reply
  2. Paul Austen

    Such terribly sad news. Such a warm lovely man and a wonderful musician. One of my most treasured memories of him with the Gaudier at Cerne Abbas was several years agp, our first time at the festival. The group played the Schumann Piano Quintet as the final item in the last concert, one of my very favourite chamber works. It was the first time I had heard it live and I will never forget the intensity of that amazing performance and the effect it had on me. I felt quite overcome by the preformance. There were so many magic moments, especially in the slow movement when the music becomes quite frenzied and the viola plays the main subject so darkly which Idris Juda played quite magically, but I think the most magical moment was in the opening movement when the cello plays the second subject against piano accompaniment. It is the most glorious singing heart-piercing melody and when Christoph played it, it just sang so perfectly and cello and man were as one. I always think of Christoph when I hear that moment

    Reply
    • Susan Tomes

      I remember that occasion too. Thank you, Paul, for this lovely recollection of Christoph’s playing.

      Reply
  3. anne brain

    Having only moved to Cerne Abbas last year, I had the privilege of hearing Christoph play with the Gaudier ensemble last September for the first time, which was such a special treat. For me the extra special quality of the Gaudier is that they play as one, understanding and feeling each members every nuance. I can only begin to imagine what his loss must mean to his family, friends and the Ensemble. My thoughts are with you all. I will listen to the various Gaudier CD’s which will now have an extra special poignance.

    Reply

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