Popular Articles

A guest soloist with the London Symphony by age 13, she taught at Juilliard for 40 years

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

Zara Nelsova described her artistry: “playing music is about sharing, sharing my love for music and sharing my love for what we are as human beings.” (Photo: Supplied)

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

What’s in a name?

Internationally-recognized cellist Zara Nelsova was born Sara Katznelson. Her Jewish parents and two older sisters emigrated from Russia to Winnipeg, lured by the offer of free land in Canada. Her classically-trained flautist father, Gregor Katznelson was classified as a farmer. She was born on December 24, 1917 and her Father recognized Sara’s music potential at age four. He converted a viola into a miniature cello, and as her teacher, helped her become an accomplished soloist. He later changed the family name to Nelsov.

Young Sara took lessons from Hungarian-born cellist Dezso Mahalek, who was also a child prodigy, and later who played with a Winnipeg theatre orchestra.

There were three Nelsova sisters who founded the Canadian Trio in 1927, as The Telegraph reported, “touring the Dominion” and winning first prize at a Manitoba music competition.  Sara was 10 at the time. Sister Ida was a violinist and sister Anna played the piano.

Sir Hugh Robertson, conductor of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir, who was one of the judges, urged the family to move to London with the help of a grant from the province’s Ministry of Education. The family was poor and needed subsidies to exist.

Sara was ultimately enrolled at the London Violoncello School, directed by Herbert Walenn. One of his previous students was John Barbirolli, from whom she claimed to learn her sound and who arranged for her to perform for renowned cellist Pablo Casals.

Writing in Strings Magazine, Sara Margolis reported that, “At 12, she was already a great cellist. But seeking improvement long past the beginning of her professional career, she went on to study with the three great cellists of the day: Gregor Piatigorsky, Emmanuel Feuermann, and Pablo Casals. Nelsova’s humility in seeking out further guidance was coupled with confidence and assertiveness, qualities that stood her in good stead both musically and professionally. She gained the opportunity to study with Piatigorsky by showing up unannounced to play prior to an early morning departure at his hotel. She caught conductor William Steinberg’s attention by planting her cello directly in front of him after a rehearsal and just started playing. All that plus a name change, and before long, Zara Nelsova had been crowned cello royalty.” 

Sara, now Zara, at 13 was a guest soloist with the London Symphony Orchestra, appearing with Sir Malcolm Sargent.

Over the next 10 years, Zara played as a soloist and with her sisters as they performed and travelled to Australia, North Africa and South Africa.

Get thej.ca a Pro Israel Voice by Email. Never miss a top story that effects you, your family & your community

In 1939, Nelsova returned to Canada and became principal cellist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 1940-43. She also formed a new Canadian trio with Ernest MacMillan and Kathleen Parlow.

At the conclusion of World War II, The Guardian reported, “Zara was left the use of a Stradivarius cello that belonged to [Portuguese cellist Guilhermina] Suggia. Though perhaps a little small for her very swollen fingers later on, it was a lovely instrument, and the sound she drew from it was exceedingly special.” Her 1726 Stradivarius cello was known as the Marquis de Corberon.

“Further studies with Emanuel Feuermann and Gregor Piatigorsky, and after 1946, with Pablo Casals, opened up solo and concerto engagements for Nelsova,” reported The Canadian Encyclopedia. “She made recordings with Samuel Barber and the cello music of Ernest Bloch, who said ‘Zara Nelsova is my music.’”

Nelsova became a United States citizen in 1955, performing as a soloist with various global orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and orchestras in Montreal, Winnipeg and Boston and overseas in Amsterdam, Berlin and Warsaw. She married American pianist Grant Johnannsen with whom she often performed and recorded.

As a soloist, she performed with conductors who became household names: Leonard Bernstein, Daniel Barenboim, and Zubin Mehta. She was the first American cellist to tour the Soviet Union in 1966, and taught at New York’s famed Juilliard School of Music from 1962 until shortly before her death on October 10, 2002.

In an interview with cello.org in 2000, she said, “For me, playing music is about sharing, sharing my love for music and sharing my love for what we are as human beings. The minute I start to play, I’m in a different world, and I’m so caught up in the music and in my desire to share it with the audience that all else fades away. The overwhelming feeling I get is a sense of connection with each person in the audience; I want the audience members to know how much I love what I am doing and how much I love them. And how do I do it? I do it by trying to communicate my love through beautiful music.”

David Eisenstadt is Founding Partner of tcgpr.com, the Canadian Partner of IPREX Global Communication.  He is a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

Read More

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

cOMING SOON…….

Breaking News

Recent

Features

News

Current Events

Opinions

Politics

Religion

Culture

Memoriam and Obituaries

PodcastS

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Previous
Next