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Cat. No. CHAN 9898 H Price: £0 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 9898 - Tortelier: Hommage a Paul Tortelier
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Available From: 14 December 2000
Paul Tortelier studied at the Paris Conservatoire with Louis Feuillard and Gérard Hekking, then went on to learn harmony with Jean Gallon, who had collaborated with Massenet as chorus master of the Opéra de Paris. Tortelier was a personal friend of Fauré and taught, amongst hundreds of others, Duruflé, Messiaen and Duttilleux. In his late teens he took part in the famous concerts directed by Nadia Boulanger for the Princesse de Polignac, by which time he had already started to earn his living by playing in brasseries, silent movies and even a season in the pit of the Monte-Carlo Opera. His first permanent position came as Principal Cello of the Monte-Carlo Orchestra; here on 12 March 1937, he became Don Quichotte for the first time under the baton of Richard Strauss.

Tortelier was invited by Koussevitsky to join the prestigious Boston Symphony Orchestra. It was there that he met Stravinsky, who encouraged him to study counterpoint, which, he continued to do well into his fifties. Back in Paris, he held two more principal cello positions, one under Mengelberg, with Maurice Gendron as his number two, and the other under Charles Munch. In the course of these orchestral years he also played under Dmitri Mitropoulos, Bruno Walter and Arturo Toscanini.

At the Prades festival in the early fifties he played chamber music with Casals, Stern, Schneider and Myra Hess. It was during those years of intense collaboration with Pablo Casals that he began his understanding of the Bach Suites, which he analysed, cultivated and polished indefatigably for the rest of his life, through numerous performances and two sets of recordings.

His own cello parts were extraordinarily, scientifically and clearly annotated with thousands of technical indications – some are published in his edition of the Bach Suites; they represent a wealth of information for those who can put it into practice. In a ceaseless pursuit of improvement he developed a new solfège system, a new spike, a new bridge and special neck for the cello, and devised endless bowings and fingerings using the left hand in a most audacious way. He was a complex mixture of craftsman and intellectual on a quest for beauty and perfection.

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