Full name, Lynn Morris Harrell; born January 30, 1944, in New York City; son of Mack (a baritone with the Metropolitan Opera) and Marjorie (a violinist; maiden name, Fulton) Harrell; married Linda Blanford (a journalist), September 7, 1976; children: Eben and Katherine (twins). Education: Studied cello at the Juilliard School of Music and at the Curtis Institute of Music. Addresses: Office --c/o Columbia Artists Management, 165 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019. Publicist --Herbert H. Breslin, Inc., 119 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019.

Lynn Harrell is one of the leading cellists of his generation and is especially popular in the United States and Great Britain. He is known for his broad and big-toned performance style and technical mastery, as well as his geniality and delight in music making.

Although Harrell was born into a musical family--his father was Mack Harrell, a baritone with the Metropolitan Opera, and his mother, Marjorie Fulton, was a violinist--his parents did not pressure any of their three children to play musical instruments. Harrell began to play the piano at age eight and--not liking it--much later decided to play the cello after he saw one at an informal chamber music concert at his home. Since the boy chose the cello because he was big for his age and it was the biggest instrument he knew, Harrell often quips that he might have become a bassist if he had known of the instrument's existence.

The Harrell family moved from New York City to Dallas when Mack Harrell accepted a position as artist-in-residence at Southern Methodist University. Lynn excelled at the cello at a price. "When I stopped playing sports in school," he recalled to John Farrell of USC Magazine, "baseball, basketball and football, when I decided I wanted to practice the cello instead, I gave up popularity, friends. I was suddenly a leper. No one was the same to me. And that was very, very hurtful. Very lonely." When four years later his father died of cancer, the young cellist found consolation in his music, pouring all his feelings into the cello in what he calls a "very complicated emotional relationship." His cello again received his sorrow when Harrell's mother was killed in an automobile accident in 1963.

Harrell studied cello with Lev Aranson in Dallas, Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School in New York, and Orlando Cole at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. In 1961 he made his Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Harrell also attended master classes with two of the most renowned cellists in the world: Gregor Piatigorsky in Dallas (1962) and Pablo Casals in Malboro, Vermont (1963). At age eighteen Harrell was a finalist in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and beame the youngest member of the Cleveland Orchestra under the world famous conductor George Szell. Three years after joining the orchestra, Harrell was promoted to first chair. Harrell recalls those years as a sort of apprenticeship. "But it was like having a class on music in the best sense," he told Gordon Emerson of the New Haven Register. "That's when I really got a working knowledge of how to put a piece together for a performance and it's been very valuable."

In 1971 Harrell struck out on his own, but it was only following a joint recital in 1972 with James Levine--whom he had met when Levine was an intern with the Cleveland Orchestra--that his career was launched. Since then he has performed with many of the world's greatest orchestras and soloists. He owns a 1720 Montagnana cello and a 1673 Stradivarius cello, fine instruments by world renowned makers. He is equally comfortable performing in solo recitals, chamber music concerts, and solo appearances with the orchestra. He has made a number of televised appearances: "PBS Gala of the Stars," "Live from Lincoln Center," and the "Metropolitan Opera Gala," among others.

Harrell's discography includes more than two dozen albums on a number of labels, including RCA, EMI/Angel, Deutsche Gramophone, and CBS. In 1981 he and violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy were awarded a Grammy for their recording of the Tchaikovsky Trio in A Minor, op. 50. In 1986 Harrell signed an exclusive contract with London/Decca to record works by Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Bach, and others.

Touring is lonely and fatiguing, and after the number of his performances peaked at 130 in a single year, Harrell decided to limit them to about 100 to allow for more family time. When Harrell was playing concerts in London with Ashkenazy, he met his future wife--Linda Blandford--an English journalist who came to interview the duo. They were married in 1976 and have twins, Katharine and Eben, with whom they live in Beverly Hills.

Harrell takes teaching seriously. His first teaching appointment was with the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music before he began his solo career. Since then he has taught at the Juilliard School, was appointed to the International Chair of Cello Studies at the Royal Academy of London, and in 1987 became the first holder of the prestigious Piatigorsky Chair of Cello at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (USC). "As I have been given, so it has always seemed to me, I was obliged to give to others," he wrote in the Instrumentalist. "I have always felt that I owed others a huge musical debt and that I was to pay it through the next generation." Harrell rarely gives private lessons, preferring instead the master-class format. He finds that teaching enriches and inspires his own playing.

Between performing, recording, and teaching, Harrell maintains a hectic schedule. He has conducting ambitions, and he may also write a book and make a videotape on cello technique. But in putting his goals in perspective, he emphasizes non-musical activities as well. "My goals," Harrell told Farrell, "are just to get the music right, to get it better. But in the last five years or so, I've also become much more concerned with my quality of life. When I come to the end of my career, I want to feel I've had a good and satisfying life. I want to feel content with what I've done, not sorry for missing out on the pleasure that one can derive from living life to the fullest. For me much of that has to do with making music. But it's more than music too. It's family and students and friends. I want to live a life that's very rich and full and happy to the end."

by Jeanne M. Lesinski

Lynn Harrell's Career

Made debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, 1961; first cello with the Cleveland Orchestra, 1963-71; made recital debut at Tully Hall, New York City, 1971; taught at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, 1971-76; taught at the Juilliard School of Music, New York City, 1977; featured soloist with numerous major symphony orchestras in the United States and Europe; became first holder of the Piatigorsky Chair of Cello at the University of Southern California (USC), 1987; appointed to the International Chair of Cello Studies at the Royal Academy of London, 1988.

Lynn Harrell's Awards

Co-recipient (with Murray Perahia) of the first Avery Fisher Prize, 1975; Grammy Awards (with Itzhak Perlman and Vladimir Ashkenazy) for best chamber music performance, 1981, for Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in A Minor, and (with Perlman and Ashkenazy) 1987, for Beethoven: The Complete Piano Trios.

Famous Works

Further Reading


Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 12 years ago

My mother, Sadie worked as a maid for the Harrell family in Dallas. She talked so much about how beautiful Lynn played the cello, so for 20 years I have been trying to learn to play the cello. My mother died in 1989 but each morning when I awake I see my cello standing there and I think about my mother and Lynn. I would love to have Lynn's email address.

over 14 years ago

Lynn, I used to play touch football with you and your brother Fulton on your front lawn in Larchmont. You were the pesky kid brother we tried to lose. How far you have come since then! Your Mendelssohn DVD with Mutter and Previn blew me away.

about 16 years ago

I was a student of Marjorie Fulton's at NTSU. I happened to be sitting behind Mack Harrell at Marjorie's debut recital at NT. At the close of her last piece, Mack beamed and turning around to us said "GE does the dishes".