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The world is young Misha's oyster

When quietly spoken Misha Favis, 17, (pictured) was a few months old, his mother noticed his response to music. Now in his fourth year of high school at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey, UK, the young ‘cellist, in Johannesburg over Pesach, spoke to the SAJR.
by ROBYN SASSEN | May 08, 2014

PHOTOGRAPH SUPPLIED

 “We had a video of the Beethoven Triple Concerto, with Daniel Barenboim, Yo-yo Ma and Yitzchak Perlman and the Berlin Philharmonic, which I used to watch as a toddler. In the video you could see the double basses.” His babyhood yen was to be a double bassist.

“The double bass is really big. My mom said first you start with violin, and then ‘cello and then double bass. I used to play the violin upright, as though it was a ‘cello.”

His mother was true to her word - until Misha fell in love. He started violin as a three-year-old, was tall enough to start on a quarter-size ‘cello as a five year old, and that was that.

“By 10 or 11, I realised ‘cello was what I wanted.” He speaks of being in an English boarding school. “When I learned of this school’s existence, I knew I wanted this.”  

Misha sent a DVD in; the call back made him “run around in circles with excitement. They told my mom after the three-day audition that I had been accepted. I got a 50 per cent scholarship, but still, it was expensive. For a long time the funding stood in our way.

“My mom was amazing: she really put my situation out there. We had to find enough for two years, after which the British government covers everything.” This was made possible by contributions from generous SA donors, some from the Jewish community, as well as a London benefactor.

Misha plays a ‘cello on loan from the school. “It was made by David Wiebe. I don’t believe an instrument’s pedigree is ever important, actually. An instrument needs to have a decent sound and the ability to do what I need it to.”

And his best composers? “They change according to the journeys I take with them and the depth of my knowledge.”

His first love was Brahms. “Then Schumann. And Bach. Now I am healthily obsessed with Mahler. In 20th century music, you use your ears differently. You listen to intervals, not notes.”

Last year Misha was runner up in a national competition. “It was my first competition. Getting to the final round was everything I wanted.”

And is his career trajectory obvious? “Certainly not. I’ve grown so much as a person and as a musician from this school. I know what I want, though. I don’t know where I’ll end up.

“But I know I want to be the best ‘cellist I can be. And I want to become a proper musician - someone who is really sincere and honest to their music.”

He speaks of wanting to be a solo performer, and of his love for chamber and orchestral music and teaching. “Ultimately I want to be in a country where the music culture is strong.”

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