Hans Josef Groh grew up in the small medieval town of Ebern outside Bamberg in Germany. He first started playing the piano, but at the age of 14 he switched to the cello. His cello teacher was a cellist in Bamberg Symphony Orchestra who had been a student of the legendary Russian cello virtuoso Mstislav Rostropovich.
When Rostropovich visited the neighbouring town of Nürnberg to play a concert, it was naturally completely sold out, but Hans Josef and a friend got tickets through a lucky coincidence. It was to be a fateful experience for the young cellist:
− I will never forget the sound when Rostropovich played − it really hit me! That’s when I became convinced that I would become a cellist, and I’ve never regretted it. For me, Rostropovich is still the greatest, though I’ve heard many fine cellists since then.
− We come into contact with so many great artists
After completing his music education in Bamberg, Hans Josef studied first in Vienna and afterwards in Karlsruhe. In 1992 he was engaged by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, from which he has many great memories:
− If I have to mention some highlights, I have to include playing Beethoven’s seventh symphony and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting. The concerts of Brahms symphonies with Myung-Whun Chung were also fantastic. Playing with Mariss Jansons as chief conductor was also a very special experience. But the best thing about our orchestra is that it never stops growing, I think the Oslo Philharmonic has never played better than today. It’s more than “working with my hobby” − we come into contact with so many great artists − even some who are no longer living, through their scores!
− I’ve grown fonder of silence over the years.
Hans Josef plays the cello within many different genres, like Baroque music, Contemporary, World music and Black Metal.
In the classical field, Gustav Mahler stands out, and he also has a special connection to the composer − his parents come from the composer’s native area, which lies in today’s Czech Republic, and they moved to Ebern in Bayern after the war, where the famous poet Friedrich Rückert wrote poems Mahler later used in his music.
− I’ve also grown fonder of silence over the years. It prepares me to play again. It’s important to have a break in all the music once in a while.
He has the following advice for a great experience in the concert hall:
− Sit down, breathe deeply and try to empty your mind. Music is a meditative experience.
When Hans Josef isn’t working with music, he likes best to spend time with his family.