Meet A Musician: Silver Ainomäe

Meet A Musician: Silver Ainomäe

Member since: 2016
Associate Principal Cello   
Tallinn, Estonia
Sibelius Academy, Guildhall School of Music and Drama   

When did you know you would make a career in music:
When people were willing to pay for a ticket to hear me play :)

Where did you grow up?
I lived for 8 years in Estonia (part of the Soviet Union at the time) and then moved to Finland in 1990. 

Tell us a little bit about your orchestral journey so far.  
My parents encouraged me to play the cello. After freelancing with different orchestras in Finland and London, I won the Principal Cello position in Colorado Symphony in 2009 and moved to the U.S. I held that position until I started my job here in Minnesota in September 2016.

Is there a performer who has been a great influence in your life? 
Yo-Yo Ma has definitely been one of the biggest motivators through the years. The first encounter I had with him was in 1998 when he played Strauss' Don Quixote with an orchestra I played in, the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra. I accompanied him once with the Colorado Symphony and then this past June with the Minnesota Orchestra. I really appreciate how enthusiastic he is about music—not only about classical but also jazz, tangos and folk music. The first CD I owned was Yo-Yo playing Haydn concertos. It was cool for me to perform Haydn’s C-major Concerto with him more than two decades later.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma gives the Minnesota Orchestra a thumbs-up after a June 2017 concert at Orchestra Hall. Silver looks on from his place in the cello section: front row, second from the right. 

What is one of your proudest moments as a musician?
Perhaps performing a Mahler symphony with Claudio Abbado in Vienna's Musikverein.

What is one of your most unusual experiences as a musician?
Well, I was not yet part of the Minnesota Orchestra when the 2015 Cuba trip took place. However, one of my first symphony orchestra experiences was as a member of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra and we stopped in Havana to perform in July 1998. The security at the hall seemed very strict and we joked that Fidel Castro must have been coming to the concert. Much to our surprise, he actually was there and he held a private party for us afterwards. There I was, 16 years old, standing in front of Castro thinking how I should greet him. The best I could come up with at the time was a head nod. 

Silver (third from right), with members of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra and conductor Claudio Abbado, on tour to Havana, Cuba in 1998.

In the Minnesota Orchestra season ahead, which concert is most exciting to you and why?
Feb 23rd and 24th. I'm always excited to perform music by Shostakovich. His Tenth Symphony paired with Beethoven's Emperor Concerto will be a delicious program!

Which solo or moment in the cello’s orchestral repertoire is your favorite?
The Andante from Brahms' Second Piano Concerto. In my opinion this concerto is some of the best of Brahms’ music. Also, the slow movement starts and ends with a beautiful cello solo. The warmth of that movement is mind blowing. 

If you could play a different instrument, which would you choose and why?
Drums. I love drums.

If you weren’t a professional musician what would you be?
Maybe a carpenter or a dog trainer. 

What are you listening to lately?
Quite a bit of Sting and John Mayer, Mahler symphonies and, of course, this summer I spent a lot of time listening to Strauss' Salome, since that was the last work of our 2017 Sommerfest season.

When you’re not performing or practicing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? I enjoy spending time with my wife Anne and our dog Enzo. I also love to take ski trips to Colorado and bike all over the Twin Cities.

Silver with his dog, Enzo

Click here to read more about Silver Ainomäe.

Hear Silver perform in the Minnesota Orchestra's Chamber Music concerts on April 15 and June 3


Emma Plehal