Cellist Amit Peled has had an incredible career. In this episode, he discusses his love for music and how important it is to speak to your audience. We discuss magical moments, performance nerves, being an athletic musician, and what it was like to find your own voice in Pablo Casals’ cello.
Israeli-American cellist, conductor, and pedagogue Amit Peled, a musician of profound artistry and charismatic stage presence, is acclaimed worldwide as one of the most exciting and virtuosic instrumentalists on the concert stage today. At 6’5″ tall, Peled started life as a basketball player and was called “larger than life” and “Jacqueline du Pré in a farmer’s body” when he enveloped his cello. Peled strives to break down the barriers of the concert hall, about which The Baltimore Sun wrote, “His amiable and inviting personality is exactly the type everyone says we’ll need more of if classical music is to survive.” From 2012 through 2018, Peled performed on the Pablo Casals 1733 Goffriller cello, which was loaned to him personally by Casals’ widow, Marta Casals Istomin. He also has been named Music Director for CityMusic Cleveland for the 2019-2020 season.
Highlights of Peled’s 2019-2020 season include over twenty concerto appearances around the world; recitals with pianist Noreen Polera in New Hampshire, at Harvard Musical Association in Boston, at Tuesday Evening Concert Series in Virginia, and in a California tour of Beethoven sonatas; the world premiere of Joshua Bornfield’s Concerto for Cello and Choir with the Händel Choir of Baltimore; Haydn’s Cello Concerto at the Silver Lyre International Festival of Chamber Music in Saint Petersburg, Russia; the Elgar Cello Concerto with the Fundación de Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Chile; a Bach Suites recital in Estonia; his Journey With My Jewishness program in Greensboro, NC and Baltimore, MD; and a Beethoven cycle with pianist Alon Goldstein in Mexico. In addition to his conducting debut with CityMusic Cleveland, Peled’s conducting engagements this season include a debut with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra and leading his own Mount Vernon Virtuosi. Peled also performs this season with the Goldstein-Peled-Fiterstein Trio in Washington, D.C.; Yellow Springs, Ohio; and New York, NY.
Recent career highlights include Bach Suite cycles in the United States, Europe, and Israel; performances of the Saint-Saëns cello concerto at the Kennedy Center; a debut collaboration with the Peabody Chamber Orchestra led by Maestra Marin Alsop; a return to the Ravinia Festival in celebration of Peled’s recording of Brahms Cello Sonatas on the Casals cello; a return visit as a soloist to the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico; performances of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto and Penderecki’s Second Cello Concerto conducted by the legendary Krzysztof Penderecki himself; Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata recorded on the Casals cello; and a worldwide musical celebration of Beethoven’s Sonatas for Cello and Piano to commemorate the composer’s 250th anniversary.
In 2017, Peled published a children’s book, A Cello Named Pablo, written by Marni Fogelson and illustrated by Avi Katz. Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, it follows Peled’s journey from the basketball courts of rural Israel to the world’s great concert halls playing one of the most famous instruments of all time and continuing the legacy of Pablo Casals.
The Amit Peled Cello Gang is composed of students from Peled’s studio at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University, where he has taught since 2003 and was one of the youngest professors ever hired by a major conservatory. The students in the Amit Peled Cello Gang range in age from undergraduate freshmen to second year master’s students, and the group comes together often to perform works written or arranged for cello ensemble. Peled and the Cello Gang also record in professional studios and tour regularly around the country, performing cello concerti, cello choir repertoire, and more in an effort to give the conservatory students practical experience as professional touring artists. Peled is also the founder, conductor, and artistic director of the Mount Vernon Virtuosi, a chamber orchestra dedicated to launching the careers of recently graduated music students, which this year performs a five-program season in Silver Spring and Rockville, Maryland.
Peled has performed as a soloist with many of the world’s top orchestras and in major concert halls such as Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall in New York, Salle Gaveau in Paris, Wigmore Hall in London, Konzerthaus in Berlin, and Tel Aviv’s Mann Auditorium. Of his enthusiastically received Alice Tully Hall concert debut performing the Hindemith Cello Concerto, The New York Times wrote that Peled produces a “glowing tone, a seductive timbre and an emotionally pointed approach to phrasing that made you want to hear him again.”
Peled’s extensive discography includes critically acclaimed CDs on the Naxos, Centaur, CAP, CTM Classics, and Delos Labels. His release Casals Homage, which features the legendary 1915 Pablo Casals program, topped the iTunes charts in 2016. Peled and the Amit Peled Cello Gang released a cello ensemble album on Peled’s own label CTM Classics in October 2017. His recording, To Brahms with Love… From the Cello of Pablo Casals, features Brahms’ Cello Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2 performed with pianist Noreen Polera and was released on CAP Records in June 2018. The album was described by AllMusic as “[likely] composer approved, more so than almost any other contemporary recording.” Peled released a recording of Bach’s iconic Cello Suites Nos. 1-3 on the Casals cello in February 2019, which The Classic Review described as “a superb performance, warm-hearted, knowledgeable, and deeply felt” and AllMusic called “an important new statement in the history of these works.” Upcoming album releases include a recording of the Cassado cello sonatas for Naxos and the second installment of the Bach Suites for CTM Classics.
As an active chamber musician, Peled is a founding member of the famed Tempest Trio with pianist Alon Goldstein and violinist Ilya Kaler. Their Dvořák CD on Naxos has been described as “The best ‘Dumky’ on disk ever!” by Fanfare Magazine. Peled frequently performs and gives master classes at prestigious summer music festivals such as the Marlboro Music Festival, Newport Music Festival, Seattle Chamber Music Festival, Heifetz International Music Institute, Schleswig Holstein and Euro Arts Festivals in Germany, Gotland Festival in Sweden, Prussia Cove Festival in England, The Violoncello Forum in Spain, and Keshet Eilon Festival in Israel, among others.
Raised on a kibbutz in Israel, Amit Peled began playing the cello at age 10. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife and children and now performs on the only known copy of the “Servais” Stradivarius by Vuillaume ca. 1865.
Here is an example of Maestro Casals teaching a masterclass.