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Paul Tortelier

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Paul Tortelier (March 21, 1914 - December 18, 1990) was a French cellist and composer.

Tortelier was born in Paris, the son of a cabinet maker. He was encouraged to play the cello by his father and mother, and at 12 he entered the Paris Conservatoire. He won the first prize in cello at the conservatoire when he was 16, and then he took harmony classes under Jean Gallon.

In 1935 Tortelier joined the Monte Carlo Symphony Orchestra, and played with them until 1937. He gave performances under Bruno Walter and Arturo Toscanini, and he also played the solo part in Richard Strauss' Don Quixote under the composer. This is a piece which became closely associated with Tortelier, as he gave many performances and recorded it.

In 1939 he joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitsky.

In 1947 he gave his British debut under Beecham, again performing Don Quixote.

In 1950 Tortelier was selected by Casals to play as the principal cellist in the Prades Festival Orchestra.

Athough he was a Catholic, Tortelier was inspired by the ambitions of the newly formed state of Israel in 1948, and spent some time living with his wife and two children on a kibbutz.

His compositions include a concerto for two cellos and orchestra (1950), and a solo cello suite in D, and a sonata for cello and piano. He also wrote a set of variations for cello & orchestra ( 'May Music Save Peace' ). He also wrote a symphony, the Israel Symphony, after his experience of living on the kibbutz.

He taught Jacqueline du Pré, though he was not her main teacher (that was William Pleeth). In the 1970s he gave a series of master classes which were recorded and broadcast on TV, which demonstrate his very dynamic style of playing.

His son, Yan Pascal Tortelier, is an internationally known conductor, and his daughter Maria de la Pau is a pianist.

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