Lynn Harrell (born January 30, 1944) is an American classical cellist.
Harrell was born in New York of musician parents; his father was the distinguished baritone Mack Harrell and his mother, Marjorie Fulton, was a violinist. At the age of eight he decided to learn to play the cello. When Lynn was 12, his family moved to Dallas, Texas, where Lynn studied with Lev Aronson. After high school, he studied at the Juilliard School in New York and then at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. His influential cello teachers included Leonard Rose and Orlando Cole. He made his debut in 1961 playing with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
While still a teenager, Harrell was orphaned. His father died first of cancer in 1960 and then, two years later, his mother died in a car accident when Lynn Harrell was 17. “After that,” as he has said, “I moved around to different family friends’ houses with my one suitcase and cello until I was 18, when I joined the Cleveland Orchestra. In part, I got that job because [its conductor] George Szell knew my father through their collaboration at the Metropolitan Opera.” Harrell was thereafter a cellist with the Cleveland Orchestra and its principal cellist from 1964 to 1971.
Harrell made his recital debut in New York in 1971 and since then has performed internationally as a recitalist, chamber music player, and soloist with orchestras. He is a renowned teacher who has taught at prestigious music schools and conservatories, including the Royal Academy London, the Aspen Music Festival, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the Juilliard School. He served as the Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute from 1988-1992. From 1986-1993, he held the post of “Gregor Piatigorsky Endowed Chair in Violoncello” at the USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles; he was only the second person to ever hold the title, following the great Piatigorsky himself. Currently, he is on the faculty of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and lives in Houston, Texas with his wife, the violinist Helen Nightengale, and their daughter, Hanna.
Lynn Harrell plays a 1721 Montagnana cello he bought with the proceeds of his parents’ estate and also a 1673 Antonio Stradivarius cello that belonged to the late British cellist Jacqueline du Pre.
On April 7, 1994, he appeared at the Vatican with the Royal Philharmonic conducted by Gilbert Levine in a concert dedicated to the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The audience for this historic event, which was the Vatican’s first official commemoration of the Holocaust, included Pope John Paul II and the Chief Rabbi of Rome.
Awards and Recognitions:
- Piatigorsky Award
- Ford Foundation Concert Artists’ Award
- The inaugural Avery Fisher Prize (jointly with Murray Perahia).
- Grammy Awards for Best Chamber Music Performance:
- Vladimir Ashkenazy, Lynn Harrell & Itzhak Perlman for Beethoven: The Complete Piano Trios (1988)
- Vladimir Ashkenazy, Lynn Harrell & Itzhak Perlman for Tchaikovsky: Piano Trio in A minor (1982)