Ralph Kirshbaum commands a distinguished position among the world’s foremost musicians. As ”one of the outstanding cellists of his generation” (The New York Times), he excels in a career which encompasses performances with the world’s leading symphony orchestras, solo recital appearances, chamber music collaborations, teaching and numerous recordings. In 1969, Mr. Kirshbaum catapulted to international attention when he won a top prize in the First International Cassado Competition in Florence. The following year, win a VI prize in the Fourth International Tchaikovsky Competition (1970), and was hailed by the Soviet newspaper Tass as ”a mature artist with a vivid and beautiful sound and impeccable technique.”
Mr. Kirshbaum made his American debut with a highly acclaimed recital at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Subsequently, he has appeared frequently as guest soloist with some of the finest orchestras in the United States, including the symphonies of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas and Pittsburgh. Of his performance of the Elgar Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Boston Globe declared ”his playing of this noble music of regret and farewell is subtle, intense, piercingly sad and absolutely spellbinding to hear.” Mr. Kirshbaum made his European orchestral debut with the New Philharmonia Orchestra of London and has since been in demand as recitalist and soloist throughout Europe, Asia and Australia. He has collaborated with many eminent conductors, including Christoph von Dohnányi, Sir Colin Davis, Yuri Temirkanov, Christoph Eschenbach, Zubin Mehta, Kurt Mazur, André Previn, Sir Simon Rattle, David Zinman and the late Sir Georg Solti. Mr. Kirshbaum has also performed with major European orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonia, BBC Symphony, Halle Orchestra, Royal Danish Orchestra, Berlin Radio Symphony, Orquesta Nacional de España, Gürzenich Orchester of Köln, Orchestre de Paris, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Scottish National Orchestra, Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona, and the Royal Stockholm, Munich and Helsinki Philharmonics. Further afield, he has appeared with major orchestras in Australia, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong, as well as opening the 2004-2005 season with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kurt Masur.
Mr. Kirshbaum’s 2005-2006 season began last summer with appearances at the Santa Fe, Music@Menlo, Aspen, Verbier and Edinburgh International Music Festivals. Additional North American engagements include performances during the Montreal Symphony Orchestra’s opening week with conductor Jacques Lacombe, concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of James Levine and a chamber music collaboration of string trios with violinist Robert McDuffie and violist Larry Dutton in New York, Portland and Atlanta. Additional European engagements include recitals in London and Manchester, as well as performances of Elgar’s Cello Concerto with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and conductor Stephane Deneve, and the Schumann concerto with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste. In December, Mr. Kirshbaum records the cello sonatas of Shostakovich and Prokofiev with pianist Peter Jablonski.
Highlights from recent seasons include a return to La Jolla Chamber Music Society’s SummerFest performing six concerts over two weeks, performances with the Seattle Symphony and the Royal Liverpool, Scottish Chamber and Israel Philharmonic Orchestras and the Collegium Musicum of Copenhagen. Mr. Kirshbaum annually performs in recital with longtime collaborator Peter Frankl. Recent North American engagements included Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the San Diego Symphony, Schumann’s Cello Concerto with the Grand Rapids Symphony, Dvo?ák’s Cello Concerto with the New Philharmonic of New Jersey and recitals in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Mr. Kirshbaum collaborated with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for a special all-Mendelssohn celebration and appeared in the inaugural concert of the Violoncello Society of London at Wigmore Hall in his capacity as honorary President.
Mr. Kirshbaum enjoys exploring the riches of chamber music and has collaborated with numerous musicians including Pinchas Zukerman, Itzhak Perlman, Gil Shaham, Yefim Bronfman, Garrick Ohlsson and the Juilliard and Tokyo String Quartets. He enjoyed a long association with violinist György Pauk and pianist Peter Frankl, with whom for 30 years he performed and recorded the trio and sonata repertoire.
Mr. Kirshbaum’s interest and affinity for both English and 20th-century composers has allowed him to forge a prominent role in the contemporary music world as a leading exponent of the cello concertos of Walton, Elgar, Peter Maxwell Davies and Michael Tippett. His world-premiere recording of the Tippett Triple Concerto with György Pauk and Nobuko Imai, together with Sir Colin Davis conducting the London Symphony Orchestra was voted 1983 ”Record of the Year” by Gramophone magazine. Sir William Walton described Mr. Kirshbaum’s recording of his Cello Concerto, coupled with the Elgar, as ”excellent and moving; it is most heartening to hear a performance in which everything is just right.” Mr. Kirshbaum has recorded the Barber Cello Concerto with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Jukka-Pekka Saraste and the complete Bach Suites for solo cello, both for Virgin Classics. In October 1994, BMG Classics/RCA Victor Red Seal released a recording featuring Ralph Kirshbaum as soloist in the Haydn D-Major Cello Concerto with the English Chamber Orchestra and conductor Pinchas Zukerman. He and Zukerman joined pianist John Browning, conductor Christoph Eschenbach and the London Symphony Orchestra in a recording of the Brahms Double and Beethoven Triple Concertos released by BMG Classics in 1998.
Mr. Kirshbaum has appeared in festivals ranging from Perth and Adelaide in Australia to Verbier, Lucerne and Ascona in Switzerland, with regular visits to Edinburgh, Bath, and the London Proms. In the United States he performs regularly at the Aspen, Santa Fe, La Jolla and Norfolk Chamber Music Festivals, and has been a featured soloist at Ravinia, Wolf Trap, the Hollywood Bowl, Grant Park, Chautauqua, Caramoor and New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival.
Mr. Kirshbaum is founder and Artistic Director of the RNCM Manchester International Cello Festival recognized as the most important of its kind and held triannually at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England. The first festival took place in 1988 and brought together cellists from all over the world to celebrate the world of the cello, and to benefit the Pierre Fournier Award, which provides a London debut for a gifted young cellist. In May 2004, the 8th RNCM Manchester International Cello Festival, themed ”Finland and the Far East,” attracted 36 internationally acclaimed cellists from 16 countries, 40 international cello makers, and over five thousand cellists and enthusiasts from around the world. He is currently planning the 9th Festival for May 2007. Additionally, Mr. Kirshbaum continues to serve on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
A native Texan, Mr. Kirshbaum’s earliest training was in the home, where interest in music was paramount. His father was a violinist and conductor, and his mother a harpist. Mr. Kirshbaum’s aptitude for the cello was quickly evident and arrangements were made for study in Dallas with Lev Aronson. He later attended Yale University where he studied with Aldo Parisot and graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with highest departmental honors in music. Ralph Kirshbaum is on the faculty of the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and his worldwide masterclasses and residencies are highly regarded among critics, colleagues and students alike. He makes his home in London with his wife Antoinette and son Alexander.
Ralph Kirshbaum plays a Montagnana cello which once belonged to the 19th-century virtuoso Piatti.