The English Chamber Orchestra stunned a lucky audience last year and it will return on Sunday with top cellist Michael Petrov. Michael started playing the cello aged six, which he says is not that unusual for those who become professional musicians.

He said: “If you want a career in music, you need to start at five or six – I’ve even met people who started playing at four. If you want to ‘go for glory’, you have to start as early as possible.”

Michael’s start in music was a little unusual, however.

“I actually originally auditioned to learn piano at a music school in Bulgaria and was rejected,” he said. “They did think I had some talent though, so they offered me the choice of learning cello or violin. I chose cello.”

Clearly his teachers made a good call, as within a year he was playing Vivaldi with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra based in New York.

“I did start young. But if you just want to play for pleasure, you can start at any age,” he added, before admitting he does not play music for pleasure in his spare time. “I love playing of course, but it’s a job, and I have to stay very focused. I only know how to play the cello. I have other hobbies to relax.”

Michael came to the UK from his home country of Bulgaria as a music student, enrolling first at the Yehudi Menuhin School before moving to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he still is now.

He said: “It wasn’t a difficult decision to come to the UK. Some of the best music schools in the world are here. The great thing is UK music schools are designed so that it’s possible to be performing while you’re studying. They allow students to have outside commitments without having to miss classes. It’s a good balance, and doesn’t put too much strain on students.”

He is looking forward to his solo in the concert: “The Cello Concerto in D major is an incredible piece, very beautiful with lots of fun bits to play. I definitely prefer solos to playing in an orchestra – in an orchestra you have to match everyone in your section, which can be challenging. I’m a bit of a junkie for the spotlight as well.”

Ealing Valentine and Music festival 2014. Alena Baeva.
 

Michael is not the only world class talent who will be playing on Wednesday. Violinist Alena Baeva will also perform several solos and, like Michael, she started young before playing her first concert aged 10. Also like Michael, she is a musician in great demand, and is flying in from Russia for the festival before leaving for Paris immediately afterwards to embark on a world tour.

The Ealing Valentine Music and Film Festival’s Wednesday concert takes place at Ealing Abbey from 7.30pm. Tickets are £25, or £20 for concessions. Visit www.ealingmusicandfilmfestival.org for more information.