The distinguished career of Texas-born cellist Ralph Kirshbaum encompasses the worlds of solo performance, chamber music, recording, and pedagogy, and places him in the highest echelon of today’s cellists. Possessed of “wonderful tone, utter technical reliability and the imagination to make the music feel both spontaneous and well planned” (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review), Kirshbaum enjoys the affection and respect not only of audiences worldwide, but also of his many eminent colleagues and students.
Kirshbaum has appeared with many of the world’s great orchestras, including the Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, BBC, and London Symphonies; the Los Angeles and Israel Philharmonics; the Cleveland Orchestra; Philharmonia; Zurich Tonhalle; and Orchestre de Paris. He has collaborated with many of the great conductors of the time, including Herbert Blomstedt, Semyon Bychkov, Christoph von Dohnányi, Andrew Davis, the late Sir Colin Davis, James Levine, the late Kurt Masur, Zubin Mehta, Sir Antonio Pappano, André Previn, Sir Simon Rattle, Leonard Slatkin, and the late Sir Georg Solti. Kirshbaum has appeared frequently at such prominent international festivals as Edinburgh, Bath, Verbier, Lucerne, Aspen, La Jolla, Santa Fe, Music@Menlo, Ravinia, and New York’s Mostly Mozart.
In the 2019-2020 season, teaching and chamber music residencies bring Kirshbaum to the Verbier Festival in Switzerland, the Steans Institute, the Heifetz Institute, and the Keshet Eilon String Masterclasses in Israel. In addition, Kirshbaum will serve as a judge and perform at the 2020 Menuhin Competition in Richmond, Virginia, and will serve as Chairman of the cello Jury at the International Bach Competition in Leipzig, Germany.
An unusual component of Kirshbaum’s distinguished legacy is the creation of cello festivals. Kirshbaum founded the RNCM Manchester International Cello Festival in 1988, the final iteration of which was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Music Award for Concert Series and Festivals in 2007. In 2012, Kirshbaum inaugurated the highly successful Piatigorsky International Cello Festival in Los Angeles, centered at the University of Southern California – Thornton School of Music. A rare opportunity for artists to collaborate with and to interact with one another, the Festival returns to Los Angeles in March 2020, bringing together an abundance of world-class talent to participate in over 40 events in 10 days, including concerts, master classes, lectures, and workshops. At this year’s festival, Kirshbaum will give the premiere of a concerto commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic from composer Julia Adolphe.
Renowned for his pedagogy, Kirshbaum served on the faculty of the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester for 38 years. In 2008, he accepted the Gregor Piatigorsky Chair in Violoncello at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, where he recently became Chair of the Strings Department. In July of 2016, Kirshbaum received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. He is Founder/Honorary President of the Pierre Fournier Award, as well as Honorary President of the London Cello Society, and continues to serve as Artistic Advisor of IMS Prussia Cove. Kirshbaum previously served a five-year term on the United States President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
Having enjoyed a thirty-year collaboration with pianist Peter Frankl and violinist Gyorgy Pauk, Kirshbaum has appeared frequently in recent years with Pinchas Zukerman, Robert McDuffie, Lawrence Dutton, Peter Jablonski, and pianist Shai Wosner. Other recent collaborators include Leif Ove Andsnes, Joshua Bell, Yefim Bronfman, Midori, Lang Lang, Vadim Repin, Joseph Swensen, Pepe Romero, and the Emerson and Takács String Quartets.
Kirshbaum and Wosner recently performed Beethoven cycles throughout the U.S. and Great Britain. The live recording of their performance at London’s Wigmore Hall, released on the Onyx Classics label, received a five-star review from Classical Music Magazine, which raved: “Kirshbaum…is in fine form with distinctive rich-yet-lithe tone and deeply intuitive phrasing. No detail is overlooked, yet each piece is allowed to unfold organically.” Kirshbaum also has performed the complete cycle of Bach Cello Suites in Wigmore Hall, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in Sydney, Edinburgh, Lyon and San Francisco. A London Times reviewer wrote of Kirshbaum’s solo Bach Suites recording for EMI/Virgin Classics: « There are more than 20 complete recordings of Bach’s Cello Suites currently in the catalogue, and of all those I have reviewed in recent years, few have given me as much pleasure as these new performances by Ralph Kirshbaum. »
Kirshbaum’s world premiere recording of Tippett’s Triple Concerto for Philips was named a Gramophone Magazine “Record of the Year.” Kirshbaum has recorded the Elgar and Walton Concerti for Chandos; the Ravel, Shostakovich, and Brahms Trios for EMI; the Barber Concerto and Sonata for EMI/Virgin Classics; the Shostakovich and Prokofiev Sonatas with Peter Jablonski for Altara Music; the Brahms Double and Beethoven Triple Concerti for BMG Classics with Pinchas Zukerman, John Browning, and the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach; and, recently the Schubert Quintet with the Takács Quartet for Hyperion.
The rare Montagnana Cello that Kirshbaum plays once belonged to the 19th-century virtuoso Alfredo Piatti.