Here at Classical KUSC, we join the musical world in mourning the loss of Lynn Harrell, the internationally renowned American cellist who died Monday at age 76. A longtime resident of Santa Monica, Lynn was a frequent guest in our studios, an always affable, eloquent, and charming presence on and off the air. From 1986 to 1993, he held the Gregor Piatigorsky Chair in Cello at the USC Thornton School of Music. More recently he gave master classes throughout the world. He was scheduled to give a recital at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica next month. Lynn Harrell leaves behind his wife, violinist Helen Nightingale, and four children.
Harrell’s early years were challenging: in his teens, while the family was living in North Texas, he lost both of his parents. (His father, Mack Harrell, was a renowned operatic baritone; his mother, Marjorie McAlister Fulton, was a violinist and teacher). After their death, Harrell moved around to the homes of different family friends “with my one suitcase and my cello.” At 18, he joined the Cleveland Orchestra, quickly rising in the ranks to Principal Cello under the legendary George Szell, until embarking on his solo cello career in the early 1970s.
Lynn Harrell was a mentor to several generations of cellists. In a memorial homage to Harrell, Robert De Maine, Principal Cellist of the LA Phil, wrote on his Facebook page, “You are one of my biggest cello heroes forever. It is an honor to have known you as a mentor and a friend.”
Here’s a concert performance Harrell gave with longtime collaborator violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and pianist André Previn, the slow movement of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto.