As she prepares for her Australian concerts, the American cellist talks Shostakovich, Elliot Carter and playing Elgar for Daniel Barenboim.

You’re the first to record the Elgar concerto with Daniel Barenboim for decades, since his wife Jacqueline du Pré. Tough act to follow?

I’d played for Barenboim a few times over several months and right before I was going to meet him again I ran into the conductor who had introduced us, Asher Fisch, who told me, “You should really play the Elgar for him – you’d learn so much.” And I said: “No, anything but the Elgar, absolutely anything else!” But I went to play it for him at Carnegie Hall, and I had never been more nervous in my whole life.

Coupling Elgar with Elliott Carter seems an unlikely match; what was it like working with the centenarian composer?

I learned the piece for the recording and fell in love with it. It goes well with the Elgar because they are so diametrically opposed: Elgar is so nostalgic, so tragic; Carter is gestural, very wild and cheeky and the language is totally different as soon as you hear the first two notes. In person he was such a...