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Zara Nelsova (1918 - 2002)

Zara Nelsova was one of the great twentieth-century prodigies of the cello. The youngest daughter of Russian Gregor Katznelson, a flautist who had trained at the St Petersburg Conservatory and performed under the name ‘Nelsov’, Zara first came before the public with her two sisters (a violinist and a pianist) as ‘The Canadian Trio’. She was five years old at their first appearance, and thirteen when they played at the Wigmore Hall. Nelsova started lessons with her father at four-and-a-half on a converted viola and at six went to his colleague from the Orpheum Orchestra, Desző Mahálek, a former pupil of Popper. When Sir Hugh Roberton, Britain’s leading choral director at the time, heard her at a talent competition he suggested she and her sisters go to London to complete their tuition. Zara hoped to attend the Royal Academy but was too young, so went to Herbert Walenn at the London Violoncello School where her classmates included John Barbirolli, Lauri Kennedy and William Pleeth. Aged twelve she made her orchestral début under Sargent with the London Symphony Orchestra, playing the then-unfamiliar Lalo Concerto. She went to the USA during World War II, making her first New York appearance in 1942 and securing an international reputation.




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