Laurence Lesser is a laureate of the 1966 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and a participant in the historic Heifetz-Piatigorsky concerts and recordings. Mr. Lesser has been soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, the New Japan Philharmonic and orchestras worldwide. He has collaborated with conductors such as Ozawa, Mehta, Rostropovich, Tilson Thomas and many others. He was the first to record the Schoenberg Cello Concerto and in 1966 was the first to perform it with orchestra since its 1936 introduction by Emanuel Feuermann.
As a chamber musician he has participated at the Casals, Marlboro, Spoleto and Santa Fe festivals and continues his association of many years as a frequent guest of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. He has also been a member of juries for numerous international competitions, including the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1994 and 2007.
Mr. Lesser attended Harvard College, where he studied mathematics and graduated with honors. At the end of a Fulbright year studying music in Germany, he won first prize in the Cassadó Competition in Siena, Italy. At the master classes with Casals in Zermatt in 1961, the great master singled Lesser out for praise, saying, “Thank God who has given you this great gift!” His New York debut recital in 1969 was greeted as “triumphant”.
In a life full of successful concerts, Laurence Lesser has always been passionate about teaching. He came to New England Conservatory in Boston in 1974 as a member of the faculty, after being the teaching assistant of Gregor Piatigorsky at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and spending four years at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. He served as president of NEC from 1983 to 1996. Mr. Lesser currently teaches an international class of highly gifted cellists at the Conservatory and plays a 1622 cello made by the brothers Amati in Cremona, Italy.
In 2005, Lesser was named a “Chevalier du violoncelle” by the Eva Janzer Memorial Cello Center at Indiana University, awarded for distinguished achievements and contributions to the world of cello playing and teaching.
In 2010, his recordings of the complete Beethoven for cello and piano with Hae-Sun Paik was issued by Bridge Records. The set has been enthusiastically received from all sides. The Strad magazine has written that the “playing is vibrantly alive […] His winning combination of freshness and affection is tailor-made for the lyrically enchanting op. 69 Sonata, but perhaps the greatest revelations arrive with the two op. 102 Sonatas […]”
Lesser’s recordings of the complete Bach Suites, recently issued, can be found through his website laurencelesser.com. Highlighted is his incorporation into Suite V of the lute suite in g minor (from the manuscript in the composer’s hand).
Laurence Lesser is President Emeritus of the Walter W. Naumburg Chair of Music.