Raphael Wallfisch is one of the world’s most celebrated cellists performing on the international stage, renowned for his curiosity and commitment to exploring and broadening the full range of repertoire for the instrument, and drawing on a rich musical heritage.
He was born in London into a family of distinguished musicians, his mother the cellist Anita Lasker-Wallfisch and his father the pianist Peter Wallfisch, and was inspired at an early age by hearing Zara Nelsova play, going on to study in California with Gregor Piatigorsky, who chose him to perform with Jascha Heifetz in the informal recitals at his home. His career was launched at the age of twenty-four when he won the Gaspar Cassadó International Competition in Florence.
Since then he has enjoyed a global career, much loved in his home country where he has forged close relationships with orchestras including the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Philharmonia, BBC Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, Hallé, BBC NOW, Royal Scottish National, BBC Scottish and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; and respected around the world, working throughout Europe with the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, WDR Symphony, RAI Torino, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Gulbenkian, Bergen Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Lahti Symphony and Budapest Festival orchestras, and further afield with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Sydney Symphony, New Zealand Symphony, Singapore Symphony and many others, working recently with such leading conductors as Łukasz Borowicz, Martyn Brabbins, Nicholas Collon, Andrew Davis, Neeme Järvi, Kirill Karabits, Andrew Litton, Ed Spanjaard, Gábor Takács-Nagy, Yan Pascal Tortelier and Bramwell Tovey.
The depth of Wallfisch’s interest in the repertoire is borne out in his extraordinary discography – including a long relationship with Chandos, a complete Vivaldi series on Naxos with Nicholas Kraemer, and with EMI, Decca, Black Box, ASV, CPO and Nimbus – which explores both the mainstream and countless lesser-known works by Barber, Dohnanyi, Hindemith and Respighi, to name a few, and what is considered the benchmark recording of Martinů concertos with the Czech Philharmonic and Jiří Bělohlávek. Wallfisch is a particular champion of British repertoire, recording concertos by Bax, Bliss, Britten, Delius, Finzi, Moeran and Walton, written for Piatigorsky, which he was privileged to record for the Chandos Walton Edition. He enjoyed strong early collaborations and musical friendships with such legendary British conductors as Vernon Handley, Richard Hickox and Charles Mackerras, and he is now President of the British Music Society.
He is dedicated to expanding the cello repertoire, working closely with many of Britain’s leading composers, many of whom have written works especially for him, including Peter Maxwell Davies, Kenneth Leighton, Giles Swayne, John Tavener and James MacMillan, which he recorded with the BBC Scottish Symphony with Osmo Vänskä. He plays regularly at the Jewish Museum in Berlin and is currently focused on a series of recordings of Jewish refugee composers for CPO ‘Voices in the Wilderness’, including Dutch composer Henriëtte Bosmans and joined by the recording of a new work ‘In Exile’ by Jonathan Dove for cello, baritone and orchestra with Simon Keenlyside, the City of Birmingham Symphony and Gergely Madaras released in 2023 (Lyrita). Other recent highlights include a collaboration with the Royal Ballet and Carlos Acosta at Covent Garden which they then took to the Barbican in multiple performances.
As a soloist and consummate chamber musician, he has toured worldwide, performing at many of the world’s prestigious halls and festivals including the Concertgebouw, Wiener Konzerthaus and Berliner Philharmonie, alongside regular festival appearances including Spoleto, Schleswig Holstein, Enescu and Pablo Casals, Adelaide and Perth festivals as well as the BBC Proms, Aldeburgh and Edinburgh International. His long-standing and distinguished partnership with pianist John York over four decades spanned international tours and numerous recordings of core and undiscovered repertoire including a recent album of cello transcriptions of Rebecca Clarke. More recently he has founded a quartet Amici della Musica and his Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch with Hagai Shaham (violin) and Arnon Erez (piano) has received critical acclaim, invited for the Beethoven 2020 anniversary to perform the complete Beethoven trios at Wigmore Hall, where Wallfisch enjoys a long and fruitful relationship.
The strong influence of Wallfisch’s early teachers including Amaryllis Fleming, Amadeo Baldovino and Derek Simpson has led to his passion in working with new generations of cellists and he is in demand as a teacher, currently as Professor at the Royal College of Music and was recently appointed International Chair of Violoncello and Chamber Music at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, as well as being invited frequently to the juries of international competitions such as the Rostropovich in Paris, Schoenfeld in Harbin and Enescu in Bucharest. He plays the 1733 Montagnana “Ex-Romberg” and an exquisite modern cello built for him by Patrick Robin.
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