Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal

Andrew Shulman

principal cello

Andrew Shulman, principal cellist with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Professor of Violoncello at the University of Southern California, was the first British winner of the United States Piatigorsky Artist Award. Shulman’s careers as cellist and conductor have taken him all over the world. As soloist, he has directed and performed all the major cello concertos with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the City of Birmingham Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Utah Symphony, the Singapore Symphony and orchestras all over Europe, the United States and the Far East, as well as given recitals in such places as the Wigmore Hall, London (“Debussy’s Cello Sonata, played with fastidious poetry of phrase and technique” [The Times, London]), the Royal Palace in Stockholm and Buckingham Palace, London (performing The Swan with the Prima Ballerina of the Bolshoi, in the presence of The Prince of Wales). He has also performed Strauss’s great tone poem Don Quixote twice at the Royal Festival Hall, London with Sir Simon Rattle and Benjamin Zander (“The Don Quixote was the finest I have heard” [The Sunday Times]) and the Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles with Esa-Pekka Salonen (“Philharmonic principal cellist Andrew Shulman’s Quixote was always eloquent and passionate” [Los Angeles Times]). In recent seasons he has given performances of cello concertos by Barber (“And making his Utah Symphony debut is Andrew Shulman, who gave a fabulously nuanced and impassioned performance of the [Barber] concerto…Shulman’s interpretation was of the highest caliber in terms of articulation and delivery. His technical mastery was such that he made short work of the demands Barber placed on the soloist” [Salt Lake Tribune]), Bloch’s Schelomo (“Cellist Andrew Shulman joined the CRSO and Tiemeyer for an intense, spirited performance of Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo, Hebraic rhapsody for cello and orchestra…His flawless performance of Schelomo was eloquent and passionate” [Cedar Rapids Gazette]), Haydn’s D major concerto (“The slow movement was perfectly poised…the Finale, the cello seemed a gleeful sailing ship” [Mark Swed for The Los Angeles Times]) and Vivaldi’s C minor concerto (”[Shulman] demonstrated not only exceptional command of his instrument but an alarming ease as he parsed each phrase in a full and gorgeous sound” [The Burbank Leader]).

Born into a family of professional musicians (his father played contrabass and his mother is an opera singer) Shulman studied cello and composition at the Royal Academy and the Royal College of Music in London and after winning the major cello prizes there, in addition to the Madame Suggia Gift and the Royal Society of Arts prize, was appointed solo cello of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, before being offered the first chair position with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, at the age of 22, by conductor Riccardo Muti. He has performed as soloist with Sir Simon Rattle, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Semyon Bychcov, Franz Welser-Möst and Esa-Pekka Salonen, amongst others. He has also recorded over 25 CDs as cellist of the Britten Quartet (exclusive to EMI Records), Vivaldi cello concertos for Virgin Classics (“One of the high points of the disc for me is Andrew Shulman’s cello playing in the elegiac Concerto in C minor (Vivaldi RV401); and he is sensitively supported by the [London Chamber] Orchestra” [Gramophone Magazine]), Janacek’s Pohadka, again for EMI, cello works by Delius (a world premiere recording) and was solo cello on Elton John’s Candle in the Wind 1997, a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, the highest selling single of all time.

Shulman was bestowed with an Honorary RCM by The Queen Mother in 1986, and subsequently became a professor at the historic Royal College of Music in London. He has since given masterclasses all over the world, including Western and Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, Ukraine, the US, South America, the Far East and New Zealand. In 1990 he won the prestigious Piatigorsky Artist Award at the New England Conservatory in Boston, and returned to the USA on numerous occasions to teach and give concerts. Since coming to Los Angeles he has given many classes, among them those at the University of Southern California (USC), the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the Corwin Awards Masterclass at the Los Angeles Music Center, as well as played and taught at the Aspen, La Jolla, Blue Mountain, Ojai, Las Vegas and San Diego’s “Mainly Mozart” festivals. In the fall of 2011 he joined the faculty of USC as Professor of Cello and was a guest soloist at the first Piatigorsky International Music Festival in Los Angeles.

As conductor, he has performed extensively in the UK, Germany, Ireland and Scandinavia. Last season he made his US conducting debut with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (“The final Allegro con spirito was remarkable for the fantastic ensemble playing in the ascending off-string scale passages that introduce the central theme. Those moments were edgy and virtuosic with each repetition…The work [Walton’s Sonata for Strings], comprised mostly of fleet movements was played with exceptional rhythmic vitality and clarity in this performance. The lengthy 3rd movement Lento, where an intense wandering quality almost defies a sense of a time signature, was also effectively rendered with sustained, emotional playing”). His performances have included the symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Haydn, Mahler, Mozart, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky (“The conductor Andrew Shulman really carried the orchestra along…like a British Leonard Bernstein whose brilliance was still burning in Haydn’s ‘Philosopher’ Symphony. This was of a quality for which one may search but rarely find” [Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung]) and major orchestral works by Bartok, Debussy, Dvorak, Elgar, Holst, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Strauss and Stravinsky. He has given performances of Haydn’s symphonies under the auspices of H.C. Robbins Landon at the Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh, with the Britten-Pears Orchestra, and has conducted the world premieres of several major works, as well as collaborated with some notable soloists, including Rafael Wallfisch, Colin Carr and Bernard D’Ascoli. He was invited by the Britten-Pears Foundation to conduct the first performance of an important early work by Benjamin Britten, with the Britten-Pears Orchestra at Britten’s Snape Maltings in Suffolk, England. He is a regular guest conductor with the Haydn Chamber Orchestra (London), the Brandon Hill Chamber Orchestra (Bristol), the Saloman Orchestra (London), the Jonkoping Orchestra (Sweden), the Ambache Chamber Orchestra (London), the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra (London), the Royal College of Music Chamber Orchestra (London), the RCM String Ensemble (London), the Ulster Youth Orchestra (Ireland) and the USC Symphony Orchestra (Los Angeles). He has also directed the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and the London Chamber Orchestra in concerto performances from the solo cello chair. In the field of opera, he has conducted Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro (1998) and Così fan tutte (2000) in successful new productions at the Theatre Royal, Bristol.

In 1999 he was appointed principal cello of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (“The new principal cellist, Andrew Shulman, whose influence on the string section is beginning to make itself heard…The cellos, brilliantly powerful” [Los Angeles Times]) and also resumed his activities as one of the most sought after solo cellists working in the TV and movie music industry. At the end of 2002 he left the Philharmonic in order to expand his solo, chamber music, teaching and conducting activities still further, having made his family’s home in the beautiful Santa Monica mountains. In 2007 and 2008 he recorded three new cello concertos written specially for him (composed by Christopher Stone, Nathaniel Levisay and Maria Newman). Shulman also composes, and recently premiered his own Smaller Music For Strings in the UK, as well as collaborated with legendary German rock/classical guitarist Uli Jon Roth in performances in Hollywood, California (playing his electric cello/guitar instrumental H.A.N.D., which was a winner in the International Songwriting Competition of 2007). In 2008 he was appointed principal cello of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and last season he gave several performances of cello concertos by Vivaldi (the C minor and the “Double” for Violin and Cello) and Schumann (the A minor cello concerto) as part of the LACO main series in Los Angeles. The 2010-11 season saw the beginning of an exciting collaboration with pianist and conductor Jeffrey Kahane, culminating in several performances of the complete works for piano and cello by Beethoven. He conducted two concerts in the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra main series, performing works by Mozart and Walton (“In the masterful hands of Shulman and LACO, the work’s classic properties, one might say its eternal properties came to the fore – Shulman consistently found the through-line in the agitated countermelodies, and from the dark and troubled strains of the opening Allegro to the fierce tempest of the finale, the Orchestra dug in with passion and clarity…A stunning performance” [LA Opening Nights]) as well as given performances of the Elgar Concerto with the Pasadena Symphony (“An extraordinary account of Elgar’s melancholy late-Romantic Cello Concerto…Shulman, whose solo part demands nearly 32 minutes of nonstop playing, gave a richly detailed reading. He made judicious use of vibrato, his burnished tone creating a confiding expressiveness” [Los Angeles Times]) and a chamber music recital at Walt Disney Concert Hall to celebrate Jeffrey Kahane’s 15th year with LACO. He also performed Beethoven sonatas at the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival, Bach at Zipper Hall, Los Angeles and The Broad Stage in Santa Monica and a recital at the Newman Hall, University of Southern California. As part of the “Britten 100” celebrations he is performing the Britten cello sonata at six recitals together with the premiere of a new sonata by Broughton written specially for the occasion.

He lives in the Santa Monica mountains with his wife, also a cellist and Alexander Technique teacher, and two children (both musicians too).

Andrew Shulman

photo Michael Burke

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