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On This Day – January 12

When entering the cello world, some names stand above all others. Yo-yo Ma is one who has done and is doing incredible things with the cello. Jacqueline du Pré is another, whose performances of the Elgar Cello Concerto is the standard that all other performances are judged by. Today we look to her teacher, William Pleeth, born on this day in 1916.

Born in London to Polish parents, Pleeth showed talent on the cello by age 7. By the age of 15 he had learnt all the Bach Suites, the Piatti Caprices and 32 concertos, 24 of which were memorised. He studies at the London Cello School and in Leipzig, where he studied under Julius Klengel.

While he performed as a soloist with orchestras, he much preferred chamber music. In 1952 he organised the Allegri String Quartet, which still continues to this day (though with different members). He began teaching at the Menuhin School in 1977, and is the author of the book “Cello” in the Menuhin instrument guides.

Here we have 4 master classes taken from the “A Life in Music” DVD, where William Pleeth gives masterclasses at the Britten-Pears school for Advanced Musical Study. We will hear Kari Jane Docter perform Brahms’ Sonata in F Major, Op. 99; Veronica Freeman perform Barber’s Sonata in C minor, Op. 6; Kate Bennett perform Elgar’s Concerto in E minor, Op. 85;  and Daisy Gathorne-Hardy perform Beethoven’s Sonata in C Major, Op. 102, No. 1.

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