Natalia Gutman


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Natalia Gutman is one of the world’s most esteemed musicians, often referred to by audiences and critics alike as the “Queen of the Cello.” Her prestige is reflected in the many distinguished awards she holds: National Artist of the USSR (1991), the State Prize of Russian Federation (2000), “Bundesverdienstkreuz 1. Klasse” of the Federal Republic of Germany (2005), the Shostakovich Prize (2002 and 2013), the Triumph Award (2002), Fellow of the Royal

College of Music London (2010), Musikpreis des Verbandes der Deutschen Konzertdirektionen (2006), and, to be conferred in June 2014, Premio Internazionale’s “Le Muse” Award.

After graduating from Galina Kozolupova’s class at the Moscow Conservatoire, Gutman continued her postgraduate studies with Mstislav Rostropovich at the Leningrad Conservatoire. Even before completing the course, Rostropovich had invited her to join the teaching staff of the Moscow Conservatoire. She participated in various international competitions winning the Gold medal of the Vienna Youth Festival, First Prize at the International Dvorak Competition in Prague, and 3rd prize at Tchaikovsky Competition. In 1967 alongwith her Duo partner, the pianist Alexei Nasedkin, Gutman was awarded First Prize at the Munich ARD Competition. Her brilliant American debut followed at New York’s Carnegie Hall, where she played Bloch’s Schelomo and Prokofiev’s Concertino under Leopold Stokowksi.  On her return to Moscow, the Russian authorities imposed a ban on Gutman’s travel abroad, and she was unable to pursue her international career for 10 years.

In Russia, nevertheless, Gutman’s solo career flourished, and she performed and recorded with the most renowned Soviet conductors: Kondrashin, Svetlanov, Rozhdestvensky and Temirkanov. As an enthusiast of chamber music she formed an important musical relationship with the violinist Oleg Kagan, whom she later married. Together they formed a Trio with Svyatoslav Richter, who also frequently acted as Natalia’s Duo partner. This group expanded to a Piano Quartet with Yuri Bashmet and Piano Quintet with Viktor Tretiakov. Together they explored the entire chamber music repertoire. Gutman and Kagan’s remarkable interpretation of Brahms double concerto, as well as much of the classical repertoire were highly acclaimed. They commissioned many important composers of that time - Sofiya Gubaidulina, Edison Denisov,

Vasily Lobanov and Tigran Mansuryan - to write for them. In the late 1970s and early 1980s Alfred Schnittke dedicated a series of works to Gutman and Kagan, including the First Cello Sonata, the Concerto Grosso no 2 for violin and cello (1981), and the first cello Concerto. In December 1978 Natalia Gutman was allowed to travel again outside the Soviet Union, and to

resume her international career. Since the she has been performing in the most prestigious halls of the world under such conductors as Serge Celibidache, Yuri Aronovich, Mstislav Rostropovich, Kurt Mazur, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Bernard Haitink, Riccardo Muti, Jukka-Pekka Saraste and Gustavo Dudamel. The special musical relationship she built up with Claudio Abbado since the early 1980s has resulted in many performances with such orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, the European Comunity Youth Orchestra, the Gustav Mahler orchestra, and the Mozart Orchestra. From 1992 - 2002 she and Abbado directed the “Berliner Begegnungen” chamber series in Berlin. For more than 20 years, she was Artistic Director of the International Musikfest am Tegernsee which she founded with Oleg Kagan.

Over the years Natalia Gutman has made innumerable recordings: both Concertos of Shostakovich with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Yuri Temirkanov (RCA Victor), Dvorak Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Wolfgang Sawallisch (EMI), Schnittke Concerto No.1 and the Schumann Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Kurt Masur and in 2007, another version of the Schumann Concerto with Claudio Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.  With Maria Michel-Bayerle she initiated the Live Classics Recording Company, which issued many live concert recordings made with Sviatoslav Richter, Oleg

Kagan, Eliso Virsaladze, Yuri Bashmet, Vasily Lobanov, Eduard Brunner and many others.

Currently Gutman holds Professorships at the Moscow Conservatoire, at the Private University of Vienna, and the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole (in Italy). Her time is largely divided between giving performances throughout Europe, the Far East, South America and the USA as soloist with orchestra, duo recitals and chamber music. She is also much in demand world-wide as a distinguished teacher of master classes.




Shostakovich 1st Cello Concerto, Orquesta Sinfónica de Barcelona y Nacional de Cataluña:
Lyricism overflowing
“The OBC offered one of the best season opening concerts of recent years. Gonzalez was at the service of a sensational performer, the veteran Natalia Gutman,  who embodies as well as anyone today the virtues of the Russian tradition: no trace of sentimentality in an intense reading, bright and bringing expressive magic to its atmosphere.”

- El Pais - October 7, 2013

Shostakovich 2nd Cello Concerto, Boston Philharmonic:
An unforgettable performance from a legendary Russian cellist”
“Natalia Gutman brought a sincere and unforgettable performance, one of the highlights of the current orchestral season. Gutman studied with Rostropovich and knew Shostakovich, so she brought to the performance a deep emotional and technical understanding of this world-weary music, by turns bitterly sarcastic and achingly tender. Unlike the First Concerto, the Second has no cadenza, but the soloist is more dominant, playing almost without a break throughout. Gutman played with a big, physical, robust tone and subtle dynamic shading. Her weird duet with tambourine in the last movement slithered and shimmered and shivered the soul. In response to the huge ovation, Gutman played an encore — the Bourree from the C Major Bach cello suite — with intense delicacy.” 

- Boston Globe - May 3, 2011

Cellist Gutman dazzles

“To hear Natalia Gutman play even one phrase, we know we are witnessing the essence of what is superbly, supremely musical. The great Russian cellist showed how it’s done. As soloist Gutman played two of the repertoire’s beloved pieces: Haydn’s Cello Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s ‘Rococo Variations.’ With little obvious effort, she dispensed pearls of musical wisdom couched in every phrase within her sturdy structural mastery. I’ll admit I’m not fond of the Haydn, but to hear Gutman play it is a revelation. She takes its rather pedestrian materials to a place that reveals information other interpreters miss. I couldn’t take my eyes off her dexterity, her organic fusion with the instrument and her sinewy power, all of which transformed the rather formulaic score into something much more. In the second movement’s tranquil melody, her energized purity, even in one long-held tone, she let the cello’s resonance speak eloquently for itself. In the final speed-demon movement, she achieved split-second velocity by means of selecting where the natural accents fall, letting all the rest become décor. In the Tchaikovsky, a florid showpiece, she took the volume levels from breathless pianissimos to exhilarating fortissimos, with lots of sexy schwung in between. To the many student and young professional musicians in the audience, it was a giant master class with a true master. For the rest of us, it was transporting, because it was about the music, first and foremost.” 

- - April 27, 2011


Schumann Concerto, Orchestra Mozart (Bologna, Italy), c. Claudio Abbado:
Ovation for Gutman’s playing
“In the Schumann concerto, offered with supreme mastery, one couldn’t miss the huge swell of sensations and emotion, nor miss each breath of the cello’s strings. The cellist’s phrasing was in absolute harmony with the Maestro.”        

- Il Corriere di Bologna - April 4, 2010

Bach Suites, Rome, Italy:
“Her musical monologue tasted of ancient technical tradition, culture and deep intention. Everything was played without ostentation as if it were a secret, an exclusive message stamped with her name. I don’t believe Bach is a composer close to the ‘russkaja duscia’ (Russian soul). But Natalia communicated him as if he were her own. She was entirely submerged in her Bach: from the austerity of a Russian madre curaggio to the persecuted musical ideal. Indeed, Natalia Gutman seemed to step out of a Russian novel. She owns the music. And Bach, par excellence.”

- Corriere della serra - February 22, 2010

Recital: Beethoven Sonatas at Wigmore Hall, London:
“The program was re-ordered to a much more varied musical diet, not that it would have mattered given the sheer quality of Natalia Gutman and Elisso Virzaladze. Gutman's London appearances are all-too-infrequent. Quite unequivocally, despite her relatively low profile as a recording artist, she is one of the truly great cellists.  Not the least of the evening's pleasures was the sense of a real partnership of equals and enabling them to play with the sort of freedom and spontaneity most pairings can only imagine. Gutman and Virzaladze immediately seized one's attention with some particularly pregnant pauses in the introduction, as well as through Gutman's glorious legato playing, whilst the main body of the movement  brought some of the most propulsive pianism imaginable. Even finer was the recital's second half. In some hands the first Opus 5 Sonata can outstay its welcome. Again Gutman brought an arching cantabile to its introduction but cannily chose a marginally moderate tempo for the bulk of the movement, varying the perspectives and finding a subtly different tone of voice for the whimsical second subject. Far from outstaying its welcome this duo brought an almost orchestral power to the movement, precisely locating the brief moment of stillness before its close; the Allegro vivace finale finds Beethoven in lilting Celtic mode and drew the most joyously exuberant response. Equally impressive, in a very different way, was the second Opus 102 sonata with the duo giving full value to its abrupt discontinuities and in the Adagio, the only full-scale slow movement amongst all the sonatas, its full emotional weight - the central section rightly sounded as though it came from another world. With their combination of polish, exuberance and insight, these were emphatically the best performances of these works it has so far been my privilege to hear.”

- - November 7, 2007

Schumann Cello Concerto, Mahier Chamber Orchestra, c. Claudio Abbado , DGG:
“What I most enjoyed about this superbly engineered CD was the high level of musical interrelation that it more or less consistently conveys, between Natalia Gutman and the orchestra in the Schumann, and between Abbado and his young players. Gutman's playing, like Abbado's conducting, is communicative and conversational, earnestly so at times, her tone mostly warm in texture, her bowing seamless and in the quieter sections quite ravishing although she's also capable of muscular attack. For a sustained sense of musical line, try the opening minute or so of the slow movement - note how easily the music breathes, even at a relatively slow tempo. The effect is of poignancy beyond words. The finale is playful and fairly genial, and the clarity of Gutman's articulation means that the solo line never sounds merely "busy". The orchestra is there with her every bar of the way, ever responsive, attentive and affectionate. The recording is superb.”

- Gramophone Magazine – July 2007

Recital, Alice Tully Hall, New York City:
“The cellist Natalia Gutman hails from Russian string-playing aristocracy. Her grandparents studied with the great violin teacher Leopold Auer. She was married to the violinist Oleg Kagan, studied with Mstislav Rostropovich and often performed with the piano titan Sviatoslav Richter. Not surprisingly then, the audience at her Alice Tully Hall recital on Saturday night was a happy combination of typical New York concertgoers and passionate Russian listeners, one of whom could be heard bellowing ‘Bravo!’ with a most shapely Slavic ‘o.’ As a cellist, Ms. Gutman has enjoyed an accomplished solo career, but she has also stayed committed to chamber music and her program drew from both worlds. Her opening Bach Suite (No. 3) displayed a tone that was at once large, weighty and burnished. Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata drew more expressive and imaginative playing. But the evening's clear highlights were the two piano trios (Brahms's Third and Shostakovich's Second) that Ms. Gutman blazed through with the violinist Slava Moroz and the pianist Dmitri Shteinberg. From the high-voltage opening of the Brahms, it was clear that this reading would crackle with raw Russian-style electricity. More surprising in the Brahms were the moments of veiled and shivery opalescence, which called to mind the sound world of Shostakovich. Yet that composer's trio, performed last, made the Brahms seem tame. The players hurled excitingly through the wild second movement, showing not only abundant zeal for this music but also the comfort of native ground.” 

-New York Times – January 30, 2006

Rectial, Boston, MA:
“Gutman is a musician and instrumentalist of genius. That is the only word for her playing of Schumann's ''Five Pieces in Folk Style"; there is no way anyone could imagine playing of this individuality, vitality, earthiness, and imagination without hearing it. She also played Brahms's First Sonata for cello with remarkable presence, insight, and subtlety.” 

- Boston Globe - January 25, 2006

Natalia Gutman Portrait, Vol. II, Live Classics CD:
“A German radio broadcast of the Debussy Cello Sonata stands out for Gutman's warm, expansive tone. Gutman shines in the declamatory, slow-motion passages that dominate the outer movements of Schnittke's First Cello Sonata, and throws herself head first into the central Presto's roller-coaster arpeggios and ruthless clusters. A gripping performance, this: every bit as authoritative as Alexander Ivashkin's with the composer's widow Irina Scnittke at the piano. The sound is excellent for archival source material. Worth hearing.”


Schumann Cello Concerto, DGG:
“This probably is Schumann's most dour orchestral work, and even Natalia Gutman's highly accomplished, impassioned rendering (and it most certainly is deeply felt) of the solo part doesn't relieve the drab heaviness of the first movement. Thankfully, the mood as well as the timbre and texture of Schumann's writing brightens somewhat in the finale, where Gutman gets to show off a more lighthearted side of her virtuosity.”   


Schnittke Cello Concerto, Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra, c. Evgeni Rozhdestvensky:
“Schnittke's massive, wide-ranging concerto demands considerable strength and resilience if the soloist is to survive in its dark and threatening landscape. Gutman, for whom the work was written, is fully equal to the challenge. In the final Largo her playing rises to heights of greatness. This music is far from comfortable to listen to, and it must be fiendishly difficult to play, but in Gutman's hands it is an involving and rewarding experience.” 

- BBC Music Magazine - April 2009

“Thinking of the present performance as a kind of standard, I find this performance very appealing.”

- Fanfare Magazine – January/February 2005

“Natalia Gutman has particular authority in the concerto, which was written for her. Her version with Kurt Masur enjoys a richer, heavily miked, more visceral orchestral context with the London Philharmonic. Yet Gennady Rozhdestvensky is that much more idiomatic; the final passacaglia carries a palpable sense of arrival.”

- Gramophone Magazine

“Natalia Gutman, familiar to many through her impressive concerto recordings on RCA (Shostakovich) and EMI (Dvorak), proves equally potent in the Schnittke. Her confident, technically assured playing features an emotional directness that enhances the impact of Schnittke's troubled work. Rozhdestvenksy and the USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony prove just as inspired in the orchestral accompaniment.” 


Schnittle Cello Concerto, Orchestre Nacional de Radio France, c. Kurt Masur:
“Natalia Gutman was the Schnittke cello concerto’s dedicatee: pure genius slides into that little women’s frail body. She is all about modesty and caracter and raises this masterpiece like nobody else.”

- Le Figaro

Cello Sonatas, Sviatoslav Richter, piano, Live Classics:
“This release documents the recital given by Natalia Gutman and Sviatoslav Richter on July 12, 1992, during the Oleg Kagan Musikfest held at Rottach-Egern. It must be conceded that the quality of this live recording is pretty exceptional, conveying the aura and palpable electricity of the event with striking realism. There are, inevitably I suppose, minor intrusions just sufficient to remind us that these performances were taped before an audience of breathing, sentient human beings, though by and large those present were held in rapt, reverential attentiveness by the monumental musical personalities of Gutman and Richter. And what performances they gave! Gutman produces a mighty sonority; not always utterly refined, and sometimes abrasively insistent when the music demands, but hers is probably the most instantly recognizable cellistic voice before the public today. Her technique is little short of stupendous, and when allied to an intellect as fertile as Richter 's, the results could never be less than devastating in their combined impact. Their recital surges impressively into life in the opening measures of the op. 32 Cello Sonata by Saint-Saëns, which continues on its imperious way to become one of the finest accounts I've yet encountered of this majestically conceived act of homage to Beethoven's op. 69 work for these instruments. It would be absurd to describe this stridingly triumphalist reading of op. 32 using other than superlatives. Gutman and Richter, though impressive enough in Saint-Saëns, were bound to be outstanding in Britten and Prokofiev, and their performances of Benjamin Britten's Cello Sonata, op. 65, and of that by Prokofiev, his op. 119, won't disappoint the highest expectations. As a protégé of Rostropovich, Natalia Gutman could do no better than to emulate her great mentor's performing style in the Britten work, and yet her account manages to remain as personal, original, and, in many respects, different as one could imagine possible. Direct comparison with the benchmark Britten-Rostropovich recording on London (421 859-2LM) shows up any number of intriguing subtleties in Gutman's approach; hers is the leaner, sparer, more enervated view of the piece, not above a certain roughness, and altogether less ruminative and private in utterance. Richter, too, takes a markedly more heavy-handed approach than the composer, yet this performance is one of truly epic proportion and gravitas. This astounding recital ends with a thrilling realization of the C-Major Prokofiev Sonata, op. 119. By turns acerbic, ironic, febrile, majestic, humorous, and questioning, this performance has one mesmerized from start to finish. I doubt you'll find a more engrossing and musically rewarding cello recital disc than this, and I for one am deeply indebted to those who made it possible.”

- Fanfare Magazine