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Leslie Parnas (b1932)


Leslie Parnas began taking music lessons at the age of five and took up the cello at eight; when he entered the Curtis Institute at sixteen to study with Gregor Piatigorsky he had already played with the St Louis Symphony Orchestra for two years. Nevertheless, it was not until he was in his mid-twenties that his true qualities emerged at the Paris International Cello Competition. John Barbirolli, himself a cellist, recalled that Parnas showed an interest in the Elgar Concerto (which was still little-known in the USA) and learnt it with remarkable speed, in Barbirolli’s opinion outshining many other cellists. Pablo Casals was also very impressed by Parnas and engaged him at his Prades and Puerto Rico Festivals. His 1957 Paris Competition win and later successes boosted his solo profile, leading to extensive tours of the USA, South America, Europe, and the USSR. For a 1976 tour Parnas and his wife learnt Russian and treated the trip as a way of improving US–Soviet relations.

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