Montana Public Radio

Amit Peled Is A Classical Cellist With A Flair For (Jewish) Soul Music

Jan 14, 2020

Israeli-American cellist, conductor, and teacher Amit Peled first test-drove the cello at age 10. "I grew up in a rural kibbutz in Israel, and when I was in 4th grade, we were asked what instrument we would like to play. I picked the cello, because of a girl I wanted to get to know." At that time, Peled, who stands 6'5", was more interested in basketball than music. But by age 17, the two passions had swapped places, and his musical engine was firing on all cylinders.

Right around the time the rest of the world had discovered the cellist's virtuosity, Peled began performing frequently with Montana’s String Orchestra of the Rockies. He's returned to Montana many times in the last 18 years. Host John Floridis caught up with Peled by phone in 2018, following a special six-year loan of the 1733 Goffriller cello owned and played for 60 years by legendary cellist, Pablo Casals.

Peled describes his first encounter with the Casals cello:

"I met Mrs Marta Casals Istomin and the historic 1733 Matteo Goffriller cello of her late husband, Pablo Casals in 2012. The idea of seeing that instrument up close was hard for me to grasp. How could I, a simple man, son of farmers from a tiny kibbutz in Israel, hold now the instrument that helped Casals redefine cello history?

This cello made the journey with the maestro from Spain into world fame. All the major recordings of Casals were created with this instrument, and so many musicians have grown up, and been shaped musically, listening to that sound. There were simply no words!

I was shaking when the door was opened and Marta handed the case to me. Should I open it myself? What if it breaks when I touch it? The cello was calmly asleep when I took it over, as if an old man was peacefully enjoying a deep rest. Moreover, I couldn’t resist the strong smell of Casals’s famous pipe emerging from the cello as I settled down to play the first notes."

Peled studied with Bernard Greenhouse and Larry Lesser in the U.S., graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music. In 2003, he joined the faculty of the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, where he continues to teach and lead the Amit Peled Cello Gang, a student group that tours the U.S., performing music written for cello ensemble. Peled serves as Music Director for CityMusic Cleveland while also performing concertos, chamber music and recitals around the world.

(Broadcast: Musician's Spotlight,  1/14/20. Listen on the radio Tuesdays, 7 p.m., or via podcast.)