15 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Female Cello Players

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

The cello is one of the most popular instruments in classical music, and its beautiful sound can be heard at any concert hall around the world. When it comes to cellists, you have probably heard the name Yo-Yo Ma before. He is one of the most famous cellists in history and has performed all over the world. But what about the women? There are plenty of female cellists who deserve recognition for their talent as well!

In this post, we’re going to look at the lives and careers of the 15 greatest and most famous female cello players and their amazing contributions to both classical music and the cello itself.

1. Jacqueline du Pré

Born in 1945, Jacqueline du Pré was a Female British cellist who is often regarded as one of the greatest cellists of all time.

She made her formal debut on the music scene in 1961 when she was only 16 years old, and by the time she was 20, she had gained international recognition and performed renowned pieces around the globe.

She married fellow musician Daniel Barenboim who was well-known as a conductor and pianist, and they did a fair amount of work together during her career.

However, du Pré started having some noticeable weakness and numbness in her hands that significantly reduced the amount she performed when she was only 26.

Shortly after, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and her health declined rapidly, and barely played at all before her early retirement when she was 28.

After over a decade of struggling with her health, du Pré sadly passed away when she was only 42.

2. Sharon Hall Robinson

Sharon Robinson is an American cellist born in 1949 to professional string musicians.

In fact, it wasn’t only her parents who played with all four of her siblings also going on to play string instruments professionally as well.

Robinson made her debut in 1974 and her first solo recital came a few years later in 1977.

Since then, she’s been a soloist for various prestigious symphony orchestras around the world including the London, Boston, Philadelphia, and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras among others.

As well as a successful solo career she has won numerous awards including a Grammy Award, Piatigorsky Memorial Award, and an Avery Fisher Recital Award.

She’s released recordings both solo and in groups on various labels throughout her career.

Sharon Robinson remains active in the classical music world to this day and continues to perform and is also working at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

3. Alisa Weilerstein

Alisa Weilerstein, born in 1982 is an American cellist who began playing at the age of 4 making her professional debut at only 13 years old.

Since that first performance, Weilerstein has performed as the soloist with various symphony orchestras in 4 different continents and is a member of The Weilerstein Trio along with her parents who are a violinist and pianist.

She’s a highly recognized musician having won a Leonard Bernstein Prize and was named a MacArthur Fellow.

Weilerstein remains an active cellist to this day with her most recent recording being released in 2020 it’s safe to say there is likely still plenty to come from her musical career.

4. Julia Kent

Julia Kent is a Canadian cellist and composer who has moved base to New York City.

She has primarily worked as a soloist but was a member of Rasputina and Anthony and the Johnsons in the past.

Kent has made a name for herself releasing solo albums consisting of her own compositions, composing film scores, and both composing and playing music for theatre and dance.

She has made regular appearances performing as a solo artist on tours supporting her albums and at music festivals.

Kent remains actively composing and performing to this day with her most recent release was her 2019 album Temporal.

5. Sol Gabetta

Sol Gabetta by Franco Ricciardiello (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Sol Gabetta, a cellist from Argentina who was born in 1981, started as a violinist at age 3 and began the cello at 4.

A few years later, she dropped the violin and by the age of 10 Gabetta became an award-winning professional cellist with a Natalia Gutman Award under her belt.

Since then, Gabetta has won various other awards for her music and founded her own music festival: Festival Solsberg.

She has released albums of music by classical composers as well as modern compositions that have been written for her.

Gabetta remains active in the music world with her most recent release being an album of Schumann pieces in late 2018.

She is also teaching in the Basel Music Academy in Switzerland where she now resides.

6. Ofra Harnoy

Famous female cellist, Ofra Harnoy was born in Israel in 1965 but move to Canada with her family at the age of 6 and began playing cello around the same time.

Harnoy made her professional debut just a few years later at age 10 and her professional career quickly took off.

She is now a multi-award-winning artist with one of the best international recording contracts to ever be awarded to a Canadian classical instrumental soloist.

Her 2020 single, “St. John’s Waltz / Cara’s Waltz” is the most recent release and Harnoy is promising that the new album, On The Rock, will be released in the not too distant future.

Her last full-length album was 2019’s Back to Bach.

7. Tina Guo

Tina Guo was born in China in 1985 to a cellist father and violinist mother.

Due to her musical upbringing, she began learning piano at 3 and moved to the US at 5 where she began learning the cello there when she was 7 with the help of her father.

Guo is known for transcending genres with her cello as she performs primarily in classical and heavy metal settings.

Guo is one of few cellists who has gained mainstream success and has worked with various well-known artists including John Legend, Serj Tankian, and Sabaton.

She also does pop culture medleys for franchises including Legend Of Zelda, Skyrim, and Pokémon.

Even those who don’t know of Guo, they have almost certainly heard her play since she’s been featured on Family Guy, The Hangover, Pirates of the Caribbean, My Little Pony, and various other popular shows and films.

8. Melora Creager

Melora Creager was born in 1966 and started studying music just 5 years later. She began to focus on the cello when she was 9.

In the 1980s, she shifted her sights onto the electric cello and started diving into the cello rock scene.

In 1992, Creager formed a trio called Rasputina that fronts as the vocalist and songwriter in addition to playing the electric cello.

She took a brief break from the group a couple of years later to tour with Nirvana and returned to get a record deal with Rasputina shortly thereafter.

Creager and Rasputina found the most success with their single “Transylvanian Concubine” which was featured on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

While she primarily works with Rasputina, Creager has also released solo music and collaborated with various artists including Voltaire.

9. Beatrice Harrison

Beatrice Harrison

Beatrice Harrison was a British cellist who was active during the early 20th century. She and her sisters were all well-respected musicians; though Beatrice had the most recognition of the three.

Harrison was known for creating many of the early recordings of beloved English pieces with her work is often being seen as the standard when it comes to cello recordings of many of these works.

She also premiered many pieces, primarily by opera composer Frederick Delius.

Harrison’s music was commonly heard in the early days of BBC radio and she was a household name in her time.

Recordings of nightingales singing along with her music became some of the most popular songs and remain highly circulated about a century later.

Harrison died in 1965 at the age of 72 leaving behind some of the most iconic cello recordings of all time.

10. Caroline Dale

Caroline Dale is a British cellist born in 1965 who by the age of 13, was already an award-winning cellist named BBC’s Young Musician of the Year.

The versatile cellist performs in a variety of genres and settings but is best known for providing instrumentals in films.

Her work can be heard in movies such as The Hunger Games, Pride And Prejudice, Atonement, and the Divergent trilogy.

She’s collaborated with artists such as Page and Plant (former members of Led Zeppelin), U2, Oasis, and Sinéad O’Connor as well as releasing her own albums including her takes on popular classical pieces.

Dale remains actively playing at this time and is currently the principal cellist in both the English Chamber Orchestra and London Metropolitan Orchestra.

11. Natalia Gutman

Natalia Gutman is a Jewish Russian cellist born in 1942.

She has set herself apart by winning various international competitions including the International Tchaikovsky Competition.

Due to her prolific abilities, many refer to Gutman as the “Queen of Cello.”

Throughout her career, she has won some of the most prestigious awards including the National Artist of the USSR, Triumph Award, and Shostakovich Prize.

She formed a tight-knit musical trio with pianist Svyatoslav Richter and violinist Oleg Kagan who she later married.

Though successful, Gutman had far from an easy road as shortly after making her NYC debut, she spent over a decade banned from international travel.

Still, she built up her career in Russia until she was once again able to travel and work with some of the best orchestras in the world.

Natalia Gutman remains active in classical music in modern days where she works as also a professor at universities in Moscow, Italy, and Vienna as well as giving masterclasses that are in high demand worldwide.

12. Soo Bae

Soo Bae

Soo Bae is a Canadian Korean cellist who has spent the past couple of decades quickly making herself a desirable soloist internationally.

Bae began playing cello at age 6 in Korea and moved to Canada a couple of years later.

Through years of practice, she became a multi-award-winning cellist even winning the loan of a prestigious Stradivarius.

Bae does collaborations with other musicians including jazz saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera and pianist/guitarist Jason Suh who happens to be her husband.

She also performs as part of a trio with violinist Mark O’Connor and pianist Soyeon Lee.

Currently, Bae remains actively performing, teaching masterclasses around the world, and judging various music competitions.

She is also the director of the non-profit organization Angelos Mission Ensemble Chamber Music Program which she founded in the 2000s.

13. Laura van der Heijden

Laura van der Heijden is a young British cellist born in 1997 who began her musical training began with the recorder at 4, piano at 5, and cello at 6 years old.

By age 9, she made her professional debut winning the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year competition a few years later at 15.

Van der Heijden frequently collaborates with pianists Petr Limonov, Katya Apekisheva, Jâms Coleman, Tom Poster, and Huw Watkins.

When she released her debut album in 2018, Petr Limonov was featured as the pianist on the album of Russian songs.

While already successful, the young musician is still very much a rising star of the cello as she performs as a featured soloist in orchestras in various countries around the world.

14. Myung-wha Chung

Myung-wha Chung is a South Korean cellist born in 1944.

She comes from a musical family in which her 2 younger siblings are also professional musicians.

Her sister is violinist Kyung-wha Chung and her brother is pianist and conductor Myung-whun Chung the three siblings are known to perform together under the name of the Chung Trio.

Chung made her debut with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra right out of high school before studying in the US.

It didn’t take long after her US debut for Chung to become an award-winning cellist.

She puts out recordings of classical pieces pretty regularly both as a soloist and with the Chung Trio.

In addition to performing, Ching is also the cello professor at Mannes College of Music in New York and the Korea National University of Arts.

15. Angela East

Born in 1949, British cellist Angela East is an award-winning cellist who marches to the beat of her own drum and has been rather flexible throughout her career.

East is primarily known as a member of the Baroque ensemble Red Priest she regularly tours Europe, Japan, and the US with the group who are regular members at classical music festivals globally.

The group has been pretty fluid in size, at one point having 11 members but currently, there are only 4.

She also founded The Revolutionary Drawing Room, a group that she is no longer with that performed European chamber music and whose albums were met with critical acclaim.

While East spends a good amount of time performing in ensembles, she still puts on solo recitals as well.

East has taught cello in college settings, but in terms of cello education, she primarily gives private lessons in her home.

As of 2019, she was also appointed Director of the London Cello Club.

Summing up our List of Famous Female Cellists

That’s it for now and we hope we’ve introduced you to some new favorite female cello players and given you a little more insight into the world of this interesting instrument.

We highly recommend looking up these talented cellists on YouTube and explore some of their amazing live performances.

We’ll also be adding to this list soon so let us know which female cellists we should add next.

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.