Death of urbane banker who studied with Jacqueline Du Pré

Death of urbane banker who studied with Jacqueline Du Pré


norman lebrecht

November 26, 2020

When the British cellist fell ill with multiple sclerosis in the early 1970s and fell into a profound depression, her friend James Wolfensohn applied to her for private lessons.

Wolfensohn, who died yesterday in New York aged 86, was an Australian financier who went on to become president of the World Bank until 2005. He also served on the board of Carnegie Hall and played concerts there with Yo Yo Ma and Bono, among other musician friends.

When I called him once at the World Bank to talk about Jackie, he remembered flying Concorde back and forth in a day in order not to miss a lesson. ‘It wasn’t charity or kindness on my part,’ he insisted. ‘I really wanted to learn from her.’




  • Beinisch says:

    Jim and his wife were great sponsors of musicians.
    He was a wonderful person.
    He saved the Carnegie Hall from being destroyed.
    He was an exceptional music lover, and knew music very well.
    Baruch Dayan Emet.

  • Skippy says:

    Heavy carbon footprint for those lessons.

  • Steven Honigberg says:

    June 1, 1995 Mr. Wolfensohn stepped down as head of the Kennedy Center to assume his role at the World Bank. Mstislav Rostropovich’s final season as Music Director of the National Symphony was 1994. Slava did not want his tenure to end at that time with the orchestra he brought into the limelight with regular tours all over the world. Mr. Wolfensohn’s decision made sure it ended. A dreadful and regrettable turning point to those of us who loved Slava.

    • Alank says:

      Mr. Honigberg is an esteemed member of the NSO cello section and I respect his opinion very much. However as a regular attendee of NSO concerts I believe that it was time for Slava to step down The NSO development in some ways was retarded by his tenure. He was not a great interpreter of the Central European repertoire and the orchestra lacked discipline although the horrible acoustics were partly to blame Still his performances of the Russian repertoire were fantastic and his gigs as soloist unforgettable. Unfortunately his successor was a big disappointment and a couple more years of slava would not have been a bad idea in retrospect

  • Nick2 says:

    I believe I am correct in saying he not only encouraged Jasper Parrott and Terry Harrison to set up their Harrison/Parrott agency in the late 1960s, he helped fund it.