Raphael Wallfisch (born 15 June 1953 in London) is a British cellist and professor of cello. As a soloist he performs regularly with leading orchestras around the world, as well as together with duo partner John York (piano), or as member of the trio "Shaham Erez Wallfisch". He has recorded more than 80 CDs, which include some of the most important works for his instrument.
Raphael Wallfisch's parents were professional musicians, his father was renowned concert pianist Peter Wallfisch, his mother cellist and founding member of the English Chamber Orchestra, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch. Raphael began his cello studies at the age of 8, and was greatly inspired by hearing an extraordinary performance when he was 14. Margaret Campbell describes this moment in her book ‘The Great Cellists’ (Faber & Faber): “… he was taken to a broadcast performance of the Brahms Double Concerto with Ida Haendel and Zara Nelsova as soloists: the sound of the cello made such an impression on him that he became obsessed with playing it.” At that time his cello teacher was Amaryllis Fleming and Wallfisch remembers: “Her influence was very strong and I always felt that her own connections with Casals and Fournier were reflected in the ideas that she tried to pass on to me. Her beautiful playing was always an inspiration to me.” Fleming suggested that Raphael further his studies with the great Italian cellist Amadeo Baldovino in Rome. “His extraordinary personality and incomparable techniques had a huge influence on me; his fingering principles I pass on to my own students today especially the extended use of thumb position.” recalls Wallfisch.
At the age of 17 he entered the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied with Derek Simpson, and – after winning a scholarship in 1974 – with Gregor Piatigorsky at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (together with Nathaniel Rosen, Jeffrey Solow, Denis Brott and Mischa Maisky).Piatigorsky invited him to play private chamber concerts together with Jascha Heifetz. After his return to London he won „The 1977 Gaspar Cassadó International Violoncello Competition“ in Florence , starting his international career as a solo performer. As a soloist Wallfisch has performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, The Hallé Manchester, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Czech Philharmonic Orchestra; He was an invited guest performer at festivals like the Aldeburgh Festival, Spoleto Festival, Pablo Casals Festival in Prades, Oslo Chamber Music Festival, Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, BBC Proms and the Edinburgh Festival.
Wallfisch's duo partner for more than 40 years is pianist John York, and since 2009 Wallfisch is part of chamber trio „Shaham Erez Wallfisch“ (with Hagai Shaham (violin) and Arnon Erez (piano)).
Wallfisch has held several positions as a cello teacher: he was a professor for cello and chamber music at the Swiss Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK,at the Hochschule für Musik Mainz, he taught at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). Currently he is a professor at the Royal College of Music and the International Chair of Violoncello and Chamber Music at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. He held several masterclasses and workshops, for example regularly at the Pablo Casals International Cello Festival, at the „Piatigorsky International Cello Festival“, the „Alion Baltic International Music Festival“ or the 2016 Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown International Cello Festival.
Wallfisch currently plays the Domenico Montagnana “Ex-Romberg” cello from 1733, he owns a contemporary cello by Patrick Robinand a five-string cello by Kai-Thomas Roth.
Raphael Wallfisch was born into a family of professional musicians: His father is Breslau-born pianist and piano professor Peter Wallfisch, his mother cellist and Holocaust survivor Anita Lasker-Wallfisch (who was a member of the Women's Orchestra of Auschwitz, and later in London a co-founder of the English Chamber Orchestra). Wallfisch is married to Australian violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch, their three children are film composer and Academy-member Benjamin Wallfisch, cellist and baritone Simon Wallfisch, and singer-songwriter Joanna Wallfisch.Raphael Wallfisch's younger sister is psychotherapist and trauma expert Maya Lasker-Wallfisch.
Wallfisch is on a mission to record the most important pieces for his instrument to be published on CD. This includes well-known works by Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann and Dvořák, but also rediscoveries by Dohnányi, Hindemith or André Caplet. He has a passion for the cello pieces of British composers (like Gerald Finzi, Frederick Delius , Arnold Bax, Arthur Bliss, Benjamin Britten, Ernest John Moeran) – some pieces were especially written for him and he regularly works in close cooperation with composers such as Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Kenneth Leighton, James MacMillan, John Metcalf, Paul Patterson, Robert Simpson, Robert Saxton, Roger Smalley, Giles Swayne, John Tavener, Adrian Williams, Jonathan Dove.Another mission is to record the works of Jewish composers who lost their voices in exile (Karl Weigl, Hans Gál, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Berthold Goldschmidt, Mieczyslaw Weinberg, Franz Reizenstein, Robert Starer, Paul Ben-Haim, Ernest Bloch). For many years he has worked together with record labels EMI, Chandos Records, Naxos, Nimbus Records, Lyrita and cpo. Raphael Wallfisch is the solo cellist on the following recordings:
In 1974 Wallfisch won a scholarship to study with Gregor Piatigorsky in Los Angeles, and in 1977 he won „The Gaspar Cassadó International Violoncello Competition“ in Florence.He served as a jury member at the Mstislav Rostropovich Violoncello Competition in Paris in 1990, in 2018 at the International Eleonore Schoenfeld Competition in Harbin, China as well as 2020 at the International George Enescu Competition in Bucharest, Romania.
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