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Steven Isserlis CBE (born 19 December 1958, Londonmarker) is a British cellist. He is distinguished for his diverse repertoire, distinctive sound (due in part to his use of gut strings) and total command of phrasing. He studied at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and was much influenced by the great iconoclast of Russian cello playing, Daniil Shafran. He was awarded a CBE in 1998.

Personal life

Isserlis was born on December 19, 1958 in Londonmarker into a musical family. His grandfather, who was a Russian Jew, was one of 12 musicians allowed to leave Russiamarker in the 1920s to promote Russian culture, but he never returned. His mother was a piano teacher, and his father was a keen amateur musician. His sister Annette is a viola player, and his other sister Rachel is a violinist. He says that playing music, playing together, was part of his early family life. He went to the City of London Schoolmarker. He left school at the age of 14 and then moved to Scotland where he studied under the tutelage of Jane Cowan. He is a longtime Beatles fan, and his own distinctive hairstyle, a mop of thick, curly, greying hair that falls over his high forehead, was inspired by the Beatles. He is a friend of Paul McCartney, whom he often visits in London. His family was supportive of his early music career, even when he was not earning that much money.

He is married to Pauline, a former flute player, and they have a son, Gabriel.

Professional life

Isserlis plays both as soloist and chamber musician and has revived many neglected works.He has also organized a number of festivals with long-term collaborators such as Joshua Bell and Tabea Zimmermann.

He was awarded a CBE in 1998, and collected his award with his father, as his mother died earlier that week. He was awarded the Schumann Prize 2000 by the city of Zwickaumarker.He plays the Feuermann Stradivarius, on loan from The Nippon Music Foundation. He also part-owns a Montagnanamarker cello from 1740 and a Guadagnini cello of 1745, which he played exclusively from 1979 to 1998 and part-owns with David Waterman, cellist of the Endellion Quartet.

He is also the author of two books for children on the lives of famous composers: the first is Why Beethoven Threw the Stew (Faber & Faber, 2001), and the second Why Handel Waggled His Wig (Faber & Faber, 2006). He is also writing stories that will be set to music by Anne Dudley: Goldipegs and the Three Cellos and Cindercella.

Isserlis is artistic director of the International Musicians Seminar, Prussia Cove in West Cornwall, where he both performs and teaches.

In 2007, Isserlis' recording of the Bach Cello Suites was released and won a "Gramophone" award.

Isserlis made his debut as a conductor in February 2008, when he conducted the Irish Chamber Orchestra in National Concert Hall in Dublin.


External links

  • - personal website
  • - Guardian article by Tom Service

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