RaphaŽl Sommer, cellist

RaphaŽl SommerRaphaŽl SOMMER was born in Prague and began playing the piano at the age of five. Six years later he decided to study the cello under Pravoslav Sadlo. In 1949 he emigrated to Israel with his concert pianist mother and continued his studies at the "Rubin" Academy in Jerusalem from whence he graduated in 1956. During that period he met Paul Tortelier in a kibbutz and in 1958 he was awarded a grant which enabled him to continue his studies at the Paris Conservatoire with Tortelier and Maurice Marechal, graduating with a First Prize in 1962 having already won the "Casals" Prize in Belgium the previous year.

RaphaŽl Sommer won many other prizes, including the "Piatigorsky" Prize in Boston; Second Prize at the 1963 Munich International Cello Competition; and First Prize at the 1965 Competition in Santiago de Compostella. In that same year, he was invited by Rudolf Serkin to spend six weeks playing chamber music at the Festival of Marlboro (USA), which set the seal on an auspicious start to his career.

In 1967 RaphaŽl Sommer came to England and was invited to head the cello department at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where he also founded a string ensemble of sixteen players. Thus began his conducting career, which also included artistic direction and conducting for several years of the First Chamber Orchestra at the Royal College of Music in London. He left the Royal Northern College of Music in 1989 after twenty two years there to become a Professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, until his death in November 2001.

RaphaŽl Sommer was regularly a member of juries for international competitions, performed and gave master classes in festivals on the European and American continents. He was given the title, Hon. R.C.M. by the Queen Mother, and was also an Hon. Member of the Academia Filarmonica di Bologna. RaphaŽl Sommer played with major European orchestras and worked with such international conductors as Barbirolli, Dorati, Munch, Foss and Vladimir Ashkenazy.

In 1990, he performed the World Premiere of his transcription for cello and violin of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in Northern Ireland with Yan Pascal Tortelier and the Ulster Orchestra. He appeared regularly as Guest Conductor and Soloist with distinguished orchestras in the United Kingdom, Europe and Israel. Most recently with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, Ulster Orchestra, Berlin Symphony, Folkwang Chamber Orchestra, Israel Sinfonietta, Finlandia Sinfonietta, and "Les Solistes de Marseille". He was also awarded the highly coveted "Grosser Sudetendeutscher Kulturpreis 2000" in Nurenberg.

RaphaŽl Sommer recorded for the French label Lyrinx and with Daniel Adni, recorded all the cello and piano works of Martinu for the BBC and the Israel Broadcasting Corporation. He also performed regularly with his cellist wife, Genevieve Teulieres in this country and abroad. He was the Artistic Director of the "Cello Arte" association, which organized an annual summer chamber-music festival and master classes in the French county of Gex.

Obituary from levioloncelle.com:

"We have just learned with great sorrow of the sudden death of RaphaŽl Sommer. All those who knew him appreciated his immense talent, his learning, his sharpness of spirit, and his warm friendship. Last February (2001), he had organized in Wigmore Hall (London) a moving tribute to Paul Tortelier, his old teacher, to whom he expressed profound respect. During the last Rostropovitch Competition, his own talents as a teacher were rewarded when one of his pupils won second prize. At the time of his death, he was touring Israel with his beloved Trio Salomon.


(The Salomon Trio, internationally acclaimed artists performing the great piano trio literature to the highest standards. Elizabeth Balmas, Daniel Adni and RaphaŽl Sommer. For twenty-five years they have appeared in the great concert halls of the world with leading orchestras and conductors.)

"With GeneviŤve TeulliŤres, his wife, RaphaŽl Sommer had been one of very first to join the French Cello Association which he supported strongly from its creation. Just prior to his death, he had given his support to use his own home in London as a place to organize a gathering at the University of Paris in honor of Jacqueline Duprť, and to foster relations between French and English cellists. levioloncelle.com plans to honor Mr. Sommer in its next issue (December 2001)."

Obit. by Michel Oriano, President of the French Cello Association. Translated by Cello Heaven.

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