Have you ever wondered who the greatest cellists of all time are? You’ve come to the right place because we have compiled a list of the greatest and most famous cello players in history from all over the world.
1. Mstislav Rostropovich
Mstislav Rostropovich, a great cellist of the 20th century was born in Baku Azerbaijan in 1927 to parents who themselves were talented musicians. Before entering Moscow Conservatory to study cello in the age of 16, Mstislav was trained by his parents. He graduated from the conservatory in 1948, later becoming a professor in the same school. He married to the soprano Galina Vishnevskaya in 1955, and had two daughters. The couple also performed together, with Mstislav playing a piano and Galina being a soprano.
Rostropovich is also known for winning the international competition for cellists in Prague in 1950, after which he began touring abroad. Rostropovich made his first debut as a conductor in 1968. His exceptional interpretation of music both in contemporary works and established concert repertoires are still having a great influence on musicians from younger generations. Rostropovich died in 2007 after a long struggle in a battle with intestinal cancer.
2. Jacqueline du Pré
Born in Oxford in 1945, Jacqueline du Pré became a legendary cellist of the 20th century. Her story is the most beautiful and extraordinary, at the same time being very tragic. Jacqueline was introduced to music at a very young age thanks to her mother, pianist and teacher Iris Greep. When she was only four she started cello lessons at the London Violoncello School. Later Jacqueline attended London’s Guildhall School of Music. While being there she was shining by receiving all the school’s internal awards. During 1960s du Pré was already enjoying international fame. In 1966 she happily married pianist Daniel Barenboim, being a part of a musical marriage, that was long celebrated in history. It was only a couple of years later that Jacqueline started to experience numbness in her hands and feet. Later she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and her last performance took place in 1973. Despite of dying at 42, Jacqueline is known as a great romantic artist, being also the subject of a film named Hilary and Jackie.
3. Pablo Casals
Pablo Casals, born in 1876 in Catalonia, Spain, was a cellist and conductor, famous for his newly innovated technique and skilled interpretation of music. He was able to create an individual style with the help of his left hand, which he made more flexible to be able to use a technique known as freer bowing. Casals was known as a romantic for interpreting modernism in his own extraordinary way. He was a huge lover of Bach’s works, which resulted to his most famous work – the recording of Bach Cello Suites, made between 1936 to 1939 – which would later become his charm. Casals was an outspoken critic of Fascism. After being forced to move to Catalan France, he decided not to move back after the Spanish Civil War. Casals died in 1973 from the complications of a heart attack.
4. Yo-Yo Ma
Yo-Yo Ma is one of the brightest French-born American Chinese cellists. Born in 1955, Yo-Yo Ma started performing from the age of four and a half. Three years later his family moved to New York, where he spent his schooling years. Later, instead of attending a conservatory like most of his friends, he decided to attend Harvard University and graduated in 1976 with Liberal Arts degree. Being a great artist Yo-Yo Ma has been enjoying his fruitful career giving a lot of performances throughout the world. Currently, he has more than 90 albums recorded and received 18 Grammy Awards.
5. Julian Lloyd Webber
Julian Lloyd Webber, born in 1951, is a talented British cellist of our time. He is also performing as a conductor and currently is the principle of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. He is the second son of famous composer William Lloyd Webber and the brother of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. His most important public debut took place in 1972 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, where he performed the Cello Concerto by Arthur Bliss. His American debut was in 1980 in New York. His most significant collaborations with various artists include Elton John and Cleo Lane. Later he even formed his own ensemble.
6. Paul Tortelier
Paul Tortelier, a french cellist, born in 1914 was known for his elegant, emotional playing. Apart from music, Tortelier was also known for his political idealism. Being born in Paris, he started learning to play cello at the age of six. It was Paul’s mother’s dream that he would become a talented cellist. At the age of 16 Tortelier, won the first prize at the Paris Conservatory. He spent most of his long career in Europe, becoming a professor at the Paris Conservatory. His international career, perhaps reached its peak, when he was invited to play Don Quixote for a Richard Strauss festival in London in 1947, which he also performed under the composer himself. Tortelier died of a heart attack in 1990.
7. Arthur Russell
Born in 1951, Arthur Russell was formally trained talented cellist and composer, from Iowa, United States. Having a background in Indian classical music, he is best known for beautifully combining different music genres like classical, folks, disco, rock. His fame in downtown New York’s scenes, resulted in his long association with The Kitchen. Arthur died from AIDS in 1992. Throughout 2000s a big number of books, compilations and biographical documentaries were dedicated to him.
8. Luigi Boccherini
Luigi Boccherini was born in Lucca, Italy in 1743, in a musical family. He was a talented composer and cello player, who is best known for works that influenced the development of the string quartet as a musical genre. He was the third child of a double – bass player, AnLeopoldo Boccherini. Luigi was sent to study in Rome with a famous and great cellist Giovanni Battista Costanzi at the age of 13. Boccherini compositions were first published when he was only 17. During his life, Boccherini gained a reputation for his “obsession of soft dynamics” as his biographer Elisabeth Le Guin says. He died in 1805 in Madrid. While we tried to showcase a list of most talented and famous cellists, there are still hundreds of great ones worth being in the list. The list might go on forever with the extraordinary cellists both from previous eras, as well as with more and more raising great talents from nowadays.
9. Jacques Offenbach
Born in Germany, this French cellist and composer was famous during the Romantic Period of music. Showing early musical talent, Offenbach studied at the Paris Conservatoire at the young age of 14, but left after a year when he found academic study unfulfilling. He went on to become one of the most famous cellists during the Romantic Period.
10. Tina Guo
One of the few living cellists on this list, Tina is only in her 30s and is on track to living a legend. She became playing cello when she was seven years old and her parents forced her to practice for 6-8 hours a day. She has performed with famous musicians including Carrie Underwood, Stevie Wonder, and Hans Zimmer.