Profile: Cellist Amit Peled
There are many musicians who dedicate their lives to the study, promotion, and excellence of their artistry. One such famous cello player, Amit Peled, has forged new ground by combining the elements of a rich historical past along with a clear dedication to equipping future cellists. His desire to enhance and promote classical music as a form of entertainment for mass audiences, rather than just a refined art designed only for a chosen few, has led to his recent American tour, which began August 20, of this year in Oregon.
In this artist profile, we’ll examine the life and work of Amit Peled, an Israeli-American cellist and pedagogue who is indeed, “larger than life.” In a recent article with the New York Times, he spoke about his upcoming American tour and what it means to him to be able to perform on the 1733 Matteo Goffriller cello that was used by Pablo Casals. So, if you have an opportunity to attend one of his concerts this fall, don’t miss your chance to see this charismatic cellist in person.
Early Life and Education
Amit Peled was born in 1973, in Yizre'el, Israel. In an exclusive interview with the International Cello Society, he recounted many of his early influences and reasons for pursuing music. Although he was more interested in sports (basketball, in particular), he began his cello training at the age of 10, and chose that instrument because of his interest in an older girl, who was 14. That year, his parents gave him a recording of Pablo Casals, and he remembered falling asleep to the enchanting sounds created by that master.
Until the age of 14, Peled studied the Starker method of left hand playing, and he recounted in the interview that during that time he really didn’t know “where or what the notes were.” But, a chance hearing by another teacher suggested that his talent deserved instruction by Uri Vardi, who at the time was assistant principal cellist in the Israeli Chamber Orchestra. Since Vardi also grew up on a kibbutz and had studied with Starker, he understood the challenges young Amit faced, and began training him to be a cello player.
Attending a special Tel Aviv high school for musically gifted children, he continued to develop his talent. By the time he was ready for his mandatory army service, he advancements had earned him a spot on Issac Stern’s string quarter for the Israeli army. His service ended at age 21, when he was introduced to Aldo Parisot who offered him a full scholarship to Yale University. Some of Peled’s other teaching influences included Larry Lesser, Boris Pergamenschikow, and Bernard Greenhouse, who he considers to have given him “a reason to play the cello.” By the time he had finished his “training” Amit Peled was 28 years old and fast becoming one of today’s premier cellists.
When he was named a Professional of the Year in 2015 by Musical America, in his article for their Musical America’s Special Report, he stated that he considered Casals to be the “grandfather of classical music of the 20th century.” Although he eventually grew to be 6’5” tall, the pursuit of the cello, not the game of basketball, is what has orchestrated his fame. In fact, he became one of the youngest ever to be appointed professor at a major conservatory in the United States.
Having already started instructing other students in “master” classes, a recital in Baltimore called “Music in My Room” led to his introduction to Eileen Soskin, the dean of Academic Affairs at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University. This later led to a permanent position at the school.
Until he was given the 1733 Matteo Goffriller cello that was used by Pablo Casals, Amit Peled played on a 1689 Guarneri cello. An amateur violinist, Judith Davidson replied to his request for housing early in his training, which led to a long-term friendship with her and her husband, Arthur. Peled considers them family. It was Mrs. Davidson who purchased the Guarneri for him to play.
Amit Peled currently teaches, records, and performs with the cello used by Casals, the same one which had inspired him decades before. He has recorded a number of albums, but interestingly, prefers to play without sheet music. For his America tour, he plans to perform outdoors, using a portable stage in order to make the music more approachable to the audiences he wants to reach.
You can learn more about the famous cello player, Amit Peled, by visiting his website. It includes his tour dates, discography, and more information about his desire to follow in the footsteps of the man who inspired him. You can view some of his Bach performances here and here.