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Ralph Kirshbaum (b1946)


Ralph Kirshbaum began cello lessons with his father, who was a violinist and conductor. At eleven he went to Roberta Guastafeste in Dallas before taking instruction from Lev Aronson. From a genealogical perspective this meant that Kirshbaum was in touch with the Hugo Becker tradition via Guastafeste’s teacher Joseph Schuster (himself a Russian émigré who arrived in the USA via Germany) as well as the Piatigorsky tradition via Aronson.

When Kirshbaum was eighteen (having appeared aged fifteen with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra) Aronson suggested he should study with Piatigorsky himself. Kirshbaum however decided to take a different route, winning a scholarship to Yale where he was able to pursue academic interests as well as studying cello with Aldo Parisot, from whom he gained much in terms of virtuosity, and with whom he discovered ‘the different colours and characters that one can draw from the cello’.

A period of prominent success started with competition prizes in 1969 and 1970 and culminated in a solo début in 1972 with Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, for which Jacqueline du Pré lent Kirshbaum her ‘Davidov’ Stradivarius. Around this time he was introduced to Peter Frankl and György Pauk, with whom he formed the renowned Frankl-Pauk-Kirshbaum Trio.

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