Albert Catell

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Virtuoso cellist Albert Catell was born in Lithuania in 1910. Beginning as a student of future Budapest String Quartet member Mischa Schneider in Vilnius, he later studied in Leipzig with the renowned…
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Virtuoso cellist Albert Catell was born in Lithuania in 1910. Beginning as a student of future Budapest String Quartet member Mischa Schneider in Vilnius, he later studied in Leipzig with the renowned teacher Julius Klengel. After completing his work at the Leipzig Conservatory in 1927 and a year's apprenticeship with the Gewandhaus Orchestra under Wilhelm Furtwängler, Catell went to Berlin to work with the legendary Emanuel Feuermann, whom he regarded as the greatest cellist of his time.

It was in Berlin that Catell began his career as a soloist and chamber musician, and he later earned a teaching position at the Warsaw Conservatory. He left Poland in 1936 and went to Palestine at the urging of violinist Bronislaw Huberman, who was founding an orchestra in the British-controlled territory consisting entirely of expatriate Jewish musicians. He joined what became the Palestine Philharmonic, as well as teaching at the Jerusalem Music Academy. As a member of the orchestra, he played under such figures as Arturo Toscanini, who conducted the orchestra for two eight-week seasons (including performances in Egypt, with the pyramids in the background) over a two-year period.

Catell also made his formal debut as a conductor in Jerusalem, and subsequently began formal study as a conductor with Felix Weingartner in Basel and Bernardino Molinari in Rome. In 1953, Catell settled in the United States, establishing himself as a soloist, teacher, and conductor, playing under such figures as Leonard Bernstein, Hermann Scherchen, and Charles Munch. He performed with Artur Rubinstein, doing the Brahms sonatas on a concert tour of Israel. In 1976, he founded the New York Chamber Orchestra.

As with many other musicians of his generation who were better known to their peers than to music journalists, Catell, who died in March 2000 at the age of 89, is underrepresented in the digital age, with his only CD release consisting of a performance of the Dvorák Cello Concerto, on which he appears as soloist, accompanied by the Polish National Philharmonic Orchestra, paired with Dvorák's Serenade in D minor, which Catell conducts, both dating from the 1970s. The performance of the Cello Concerto is one of the most eloquent and finely articulated available on compact disc, and can be recommended as a good first choice.