Truls Mørk was born in in 1961, in Bergen on Norway's west coast, and has lived all over Norway, most recently in Oslo. His father was a cellist and his mother a pianist. She began teaching him the piano when he was seven years old, but that didn't work out, and when he was nine he began violin lessons. Violin also did not succeed. Finally his father decided Truls would play the cello, and gave him his first lessons at the age of eleven. Mørk immediately liked the cello simply because it was bigger than the violin, but soon developed a true love of the instrument.
During his first year of lessons, his study material was the first Bach Cello Suite, and the Brahms E Minor Sonata, rather unusual works for a first-year student. "I wanted to be very, very good," he said. "I worked very much in the early years. I didn't even perform a lot; I just studied." Mørk's parents never pushed him to practice, and in fact he had to sometimes remind his father to give him lessons.
When Mørk was seventeen, he began studying with Frans Helmerson, who gave him lessons once or twice a month. Between lessons, Helmerson's half-dozen students would gather from 7 in the morning until 11 at night, practicing, discussing music, and listening to records.
Mørk soon became enamoured with the great Russian cellists, and collected many recordings. He sought out Russian cellist Natalia Schakowskaya, and became her pupil. Mørk was a great Rostropovich admirer and loved his ability to create so many different combinations of dynamics and colors on the cello. Schakowskaya was a student of Rostropovich, a demanding teacher, and a tremendous influence in Mørk's technical development.
The first time he entered a major contest, the 1982 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, he had to borrow dress shoes for the final round. He was there with four cellists from his school, and there true intent was simply to observe. Mørk hadn't brought any dress clothes to play in, as he and his friends expected to leave after the first round.
As a young contestant, Mørk was impressed by the crowds who followed each player during the two-week-long first round. Sometimes they would speak with the contestants, questioning their performances and interpretations, which Mørk found to be challenging, yet inspirational.
When he kept advancing in the competition, he realized he had a problem: concert clothes. All he had with him was a folkloric Norwegian shirt, and no jacket. For the final round, he borrowed black shoes from the director of the Norwegian National Opera, who was there to listen to singers. Mørk was astonished when he won the prize, but grateful, as it helped him to become recognized, especially in his own country of Norway.
He then entered and won several other contests, including New York's Naumburg, not because he enjoyed competing, but because he was seeking a confirmation that his playing was at a high enough level to have a concert career. He was a prize winner in the Cassado Cello Competition in Florence in 1983, and received the UNESCO Prize at the European Radio-Union competition in Bratislava. Mørk has since emerged as a significant new presence on the music scene, especially in Europe. "He is now one of the most requested cellists," says Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Music Director Mariss Jansons. "He has charisma on the stage."
Mørk has an almost ideal cello sound, and plays a rare Domenico Montagnana cello, made in Venice in 1723, purchased for him by SR-Bank in Norway. As one reviewer wrote, he "...reinforces the rich multi-hued wooden colours of his instrument with just the right level of sinewy insistence and penetrating focus."
Mr. Mørk has a valued relationship with the Jarvi family of conductors. In the 1993-94 season, he made his American debut under Neeme Jarvi and the Detroit Symphony. He got to know CSO music director-designate Paavo Jarvi and his family in the late '80s, when the young maestro was conducting the Norwegian National Opera. Mr. Mørk's wife (they have three children) was then a dancer in the ballet company, and the couples often went out together. He thinks highly of their recording of the Miaskovsky Cello Concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (Virgin Classics).
In 1994 he was the featured soloist on a nationwide tour with the Oslo Philharmonic under Mariss Jansons, with appearances in Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Boston's Symphony Hall, and Chicago's Orchestra Hall, among others.
A dedicated chamber musician, Mørk is the founder and Artistic Director of the International Chamber Music Festival in Stavanger. He appears in recital throughout the world in major venues and last season was the Artistic Director of a highly successful four-concert mini-series which took place in the Concertgebouw Amsterdam over an entire weekend in Spring 2000, entitled "Sixty Degrees North", featuring works by composers from Helsinki, St Petersburg, Stockholm and Oslo.
Additionally, his recording of the Shostakovich Concerto No. 1 with the London Philharmonic was nominated for a Grammy. Mørk still feels the weight of the work's dedicatee, the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. A musician of prodigious talent, Rostropovich learned the entire part in four days. The Russian cellist's daunting talent is an inspiration to Mørk, one of the things that pushes him to pursue the highest level of interpretation. "Rostropovich was my big hero for so many years. He still is a great hero."
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