Young Artist Interview: Ben Tarlton (Cello)

Cellist Ben Tarlton is a winner of the Musicians’ Company David Goldman Award and Silver Medal – Guildhall School of Music and Drama (GSMD). Having first held a cello bow at three weeks old, Ben later went on to study with world-leading cellists at Yehudi Menuhin School and GSMD and to perform at leading venues including Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall and Dora Stoutzker Hall. Ben tells us more about his incredible musical journey.


When did you first pick up the cello bow?

With my parents both being musicians, I was surrounded by music from a young age and couldn’t help but be immersed in it. For that I’m entirely grateful and although I don’t remember the first time I picked up a cello bow, there is a photo of me about three weeks old with a small cello bow placed in my hand whilst I was sleeping. Subconsciously hardwired!


What inspired you to pursue the cello as a career?

As music and the cello became an integral part of my life I gradually realised that it seemed like the obvious career to pursue. I didn’t wake up one particular day and decide that playing the cello was what I was going to do. Certainly the amount of listening I did as a teenager to recordings of all the old great cellists gave me such inspiration that it encouraged me to want to develop as quickly as I could. Their sound and passion especially. Also, I was lucky to be playing to local audiences fairly frequently in South Wales, at my local primary and comprehensive schools, local competitions and young musician concerts. This was a very important part of my development as these opportunities gave me vital experience playing in public which gave me a very good grounding when continuing my education at the Yehudi Menuhin School and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.


What challenges have you faced as a cellist (other than boarding planes!)?

I think the biggest challenge I often find balancing freelance life as a concert performer, teacher and festival director is continually getting to know myself well enough to be good at juggling it all and not burning out. I’ve found that planning one’s own schedule around external commitments is a very refined skill which I am a long way from mastering but eager to get better at. Simply knowing how to get into a creative mental space where you can create plans and follow through with them is at the heart of it and for me it involves a mixture of exercise, meditation and qi gong.

Watch Ben perform Pohádka by Czech composer Leoš Janáček


Tell us about your most memorable experience or performance?

There have certainly been many musical moments so far that have impacted me greatly such as having the opportunity to play half a recital at Wigmore Hall in 2020, and also moments that have made me laugh such as a dog barking in the front row all the way through a slow movement of a Beethoven sonata at St James’s Church Piccadilly.

However, the most memorable performing experience definitely has to be playing Messiaen’s ‘Quartet for the End of Time’ in the Barbican Hall in January 2022. Playing such a monumental work in that hall with only three other performers on stage was, although quite terrifying, an exhilarating and somewhat timeless experience.


What’s the best bit of advice anyone’s given you?

‘Follow your gut and intuition’


How will you continue challenging yourself as a cellist?

It seems that my cellistic challenges are often governed by the demands and quantity of the repertoire I’m performing. Stamina and playing with greater physical ease is an ongoing pursuit that I like to touch base with daily to avoid injury and to feel good in the body.

As a freelancer, work can often come in very intense patches by complete coincidence, sometimes two completely different sets of difficult repertoire in two consecutive days. This means developing a good sense of strategy in the practice room to know how long something will take that also allows time for ideas to formulate and to keep an eye on the progress.

Therefore, most of my time is spent preparing for the next project on the horizon and looking forward whilst being as present as I can in the day. I find the whole process fascinating as well as very stimulating.


Where will you be performing this year?

At the beginning of March I will be performing Elgar’s cello concerto with Darrell Davison and the Epsom Symphony Orchestra and the day after piano trios with pianist Robin Green and violinist Charlotte Saluste-Bridoux in Chelsea Arts Club. One piece I am particularly looking forward to playing for the first time is Ravel’s piano trio, which we will also be performing at my Chamber Music Festival in Llantwit Major towards the end of March. Also coming up is my first Walton Concerto, an all-time favourite of mine for cello, with Orlando Jopling and the St Albans Symphony Orchestra at St Saviour’s Church, St Albans.

Hear Ben perform on his YouTube channel (

You can find out more about Ben at


Interview by Suzy Willmott

Suzy is freelance copywriter who works with the Musicians’ Company