La Scena Musicale, Vol. 5.1 Septembre/September 1999
The latest adventure of
Amanda Forsyth and cello
by Philip Anson
It seemed like a lousy ending to Amanda Forsyth's first year as principal cellist of Ottawa's National Arts Centre Orchestra. A week before the season finale, a thief walked out of the NAC with her instrument.
"I went to my locker in the morning and it was gone," the 33-year-old musician explained over coffee in Ottawa. "I felt like someone stole my soul," she lamented. Insured for $30,000, her pale brown, lightly varnished instrument is "probably the least valuable cello at the NAC," she admitted, "but we've been through a lot together."
Crafted by David Wiebe in 1981, the cello had shared an integral part of Amanda Forsyth's remarkable career. The daughter of an award-winning composer, Malcolm Forsyth, and a former ballerina, Amanda studied with the legendary William Pleeth and played for the late Jacqueline Du Pre. "She was my idol," says Forsyth. After her graduation from Juilliard in 1989, Forsyth rapidly advanced from the Toronto Symphony to first cellist at the Calgary Philharmonic before joining the NAC.
Forsyth's recordings include the 1998 Juno Award-winning CBC CD featuring Electra Rising, a concerto her father wrote for her, as well as another father-daughter disc called "Soaring with Agamemnon" (Marquis Classics). She also recently performed on the soundtrack for Veronica Tennant's ballet The Four Seasons (CBC Records/Rhombus).
A week after the theft, when the police finally recovered the cello from a Gatineau-area home, Forsyth treated the local station to an impromptu recital as she checked for damage to her prized possession, much like a mother counting her newborn's fingers and toes. "I had nightmares it had been sledge-hammered but it was basically okay," she recalled with relief.
At the same time, Forsyth confesses that, while trying out substitutes, she actually fell in love with another instrument. "I was never tempted to be unfaithful to my Wiebe, but now I have to admit, I want a Strad!" she laughs.
When her cello disappeared, Forsyth had been scheduled for three Ottawa concerts and a recording session in the near future. She proceeded with the recording of Mozart's Flute Quartets for CBC Records (with NAC director Pinchas Zuckerman) on a borrowed instrument. With her cello back, and slated to be a soloist next season, Forsyth is clearly optimistic about her future with the NAC. "I think the NAC is on the brink of a huge step up with Pinchas and the new bosses," she says, referring to incoming CEO Peter Herndorff and Board Chairman David Leighton.