Konstantin Elia Arestov
Conversation w/ Sophia Klinke on February 1, 2023
Do you see yourself as left-handed or right-handed?
I'm left-handed and my parents realized that right away.
But it's not that I can't do anything with my right hand... ;)
Did you learn your instrument left-handed from the beginning?
Yes, I started playing the cello left-handed when I was six. At that time, I was at a luthier's with my parents. He put a cello in my hands and I directly held the bow and instrument the left-handed way, because that's how it felt good. My parents and the luthier were fascinated to see that I intuitively took the instrument like that and experimented on it. Therefore, they had me start appropriately left-handed, and as far as I know, there was not much discussion about this decision. The strings were strung accordingly the other way around and so I began to play the cello.
Have you faced any reservations or concerns later on?
I don't know exactly - at least I can't remember any. Playing left-handed was normal for me from the very beginning, and at that young age I hadn't thought about the subject of handedness in instrument playing. It went well on the left and we didn't get any headwind.
I became aware of my current teacher Joseph Hasten when I met four of his students at the national competition of Jugend Musiziert. We got along well and I became curious about the teacher of these cellists, so at some point I went to see him, sat in on his lessons and eventually became his student myself. I regularly play chamber music with other cellists in his class. The left-playing cellist Konrad Haug also has lessons with him.
So there were never any negative reactions?
Only sometimes I noticed that my lefty playing seemed to be a bit suspicious to some people. But so far I never experienced anything hostile. As a rule, I am always asked about my way of playing, because for most people it’s something completely new. Therefore, I find it understandable that I am asked and I answer the questions gladly and openly.
How did you come by your instruments?
At the beginning, we went to Christoph van Dijk, a violin maker in Karlsruhe, who strung my first rented children's cello the other way around. So it was a right-handed cello with only the strings put on the lefty way.
When I got a 3/4 size cello, he also changed the bass bar and soundpost to make it a left-handed cello. After I played on this rebuilt left-handed cello for quite a while and the time came for a 4/4 one, Martin Schleske built me my current instrument. - So I play on an original, modern left-handed cello. As far as I know, this was the first lefty instrument he built, and apparently an exciting project, since it was something new for him as well.
When was this cello built?
In 2018 and I am very happy with it!
Do you play in an orchestra? If so, what are your experiences with it?
At the moment I don't play in an orchestra, but as a student I played in the school orchestra. I never experienced any problems in terms of space, except sometimes when the room was a very small and there was not much space for everyone. But even that could always be solved.
What funny or strange experiences have you had with your lefty playing style?
Not many. Actually, most people I know - especially those my age - just think it's cool.
Of course, I'm always asked why I play left-handed etc., and every now and then there are hints that it seems a bit strange to some people. But there has never been anyone who said to me that it was complete nonsense or stupid. Only a somewhat critical 'why' meets me now and then, and that I am eyed more strongly.
Do you see any advantages in playing 'the other way round'?
It just feels right that way. I am very happy that I am so satisfied with my cello by Martin Schleske. Otherwise, the choice of instrument would probably have been a lot more difficult: Although I can test the sound on a right-handed cello while playing left-handed, I cannot easily play my usual repertoire on it - that would only be possible if the cello was modified. And even then it is not always certain - especially with very old instruments - how the conversion would ultimately affect the sound body.
I think it's great to become one of the first aspiring professional left-hand cellists! At the same time, I never tried to make a big or special thing out of it, because it should be normal to play according to handedness and not be treated differently because of that.