Another cello loss, at 73

Another cello loss, at 73


norman lebrecht

October 22, 2019

We’ve been informed of the death last Friday of Michael Flaksman, American cellist, professor at the University of Heidelberg/ Mannheim.

He was 73.

A soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra at age 17, he won a major competition in Bologna and concertised extansively before settling for a distinguished teaching career.

He founded the Ascoli Piceno Festival in Italy. His son, Jonathan, is assistant principal cello with the Santa Barbara Symphony.


  • Joel Lazar says:

    Saddened to read of Michael’s death. He was a few years behind me at Harvard and I have warm memories of his fine playing as the lead cellist in a student performance which I conducted of the Villa-Lobos “Bachianas No. 5” in the mid-1960s. My condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

  • Edgar Self says:

    No man is an island. Joel Lazar’s tribute and recollection of his departed colleague mentions the elegiac Bachianas Brasilieras Nr. 5 for solo cello, cello ensemble, and voice.

    Perhaps it is not too soon to recall, in 1945 its composer Villa-Lobos, himself a cellist, led its first recording with Leonard Rose, NYPO friends, and soprano Bidu Sayao, a compatriot, in Columbia’s New York studio. She had persuaded VL much against his will to re-write its solo violin original for cello, and found Porruguese words for a B-section, saying she could sing like a violin.

    The first take went well; there was no second. The cello ensemble fashioned its exploded guitar, VL’s other instrument, from pizzicati and wood. Sayao was satisfied, having sung the most beautiful humming before Aksel Schiotz. VL made no secret of his surprise. Mr. Rose had another gig. They packed up and left. And so it was a one-off. Not VL’s later version, not even Stokowski or Harvard students could erase the memory.