Cellist Aldo Parisot retires after 60 years at YSM

Aldo Parisot

For 60 years, cellists from around the world have come to the Yale School of Music to study with Aldo Parisot, a legendary figure in the field by any standard and an inimitable presence in our studios and concert halls. Today, we celebrate and honor a teacher, a colleague, and a friend for his decades of service to our students, to our School, and to music. At 99, Parisot’s retirement from teaching in June 2018 is a momentous occasion that merits reflection.

“The presence of Aldo Parisot in the School of Music has been transformative and transcendent,” YSM Dean Robert Blocker said. “His strongly held opinions about artistic excellence have led generations of faculty and students to carefully consider their points of view about music making, but with his rigorous intonements came a palpable love for the beauty of music and what it means to our lives.”

Parisot’s passion for teaching has been infectious. He is one of the rare musicians who has loved teaching as much as he has loved playing. In 1958, he joined the faculty at the Yale School of Music. In 1983, Parisot founded the Yale Cellos, an ensemble that has earned international acclaim for its rich sound, stunning virtuosity, beloved recordings, and numerous additions to the cello-ensemble literature. In 1988, Parisot closed out a remarkable performing career and dedicated himself fully to teaching. He was named the Samuel Sanford Professor of Music at Yale in 1994, and, in 2002, received the Gustave Stoeckel Award, the Yale School of Music’s most prestigious honor.

Throughout his career, Parisot viewed his students as family. “I have a great, great joy in teaching these people,” he said in 2017. “Those are my children … I see in them me, when (I) was young, and I want to see them succeed. I am very severe, because I care about them. I tell my students, ‘Your future depends on you. You’ve got to believe in yourself. You can do it. But only youcan do it. I can only help you.”

As a teacher, Parisot said he learned, over time, what worked and what did not. With his students, he emphasized a relaxed physical technique and freedom from tension as the basis of music-making. He didn’t want his students to imitate him as a player; instead he encouraged them to be themselves.

As he said to Ralph Kirshbaum ’68BA, one of his most well-known students, in an interview with The Strad, “I learn from my own students. Every day they surprise me. They come and do something, and I think, ‘Why didn’t I do that before? I never thought about that.’”

Parisot has long been known as a generous, passionate, forthright, and rigorous mentor. In addition to Kirshbaum, his former students include Jian Wang, Roman Jablonsky, Shauna Rolston, and Carter Brey. Parisot has called his students’ successes “an incredible pleasure.” He has taken a great interest in them as individuals and encouraged them to develop their own personalities, onstage and off. “I try to make students believe in themselves,” he said, “and that includes without the cello.”

Cellists around the world have made pilgrimages to his master classes. János Starker, Parisot’s friend of many years and a distinguished cello teacher at Indiana University, once described Parisot as “the best cello teacher I have met in my life.”

As a performer, Parisot was renowned for his virtuosic playing, beautiful sound, and astonishing technique. He performed on stages throughout the world, both as a recitalist and as a soloist with major orchestras, under the batons of such eminent conductors as Stokowski, Barbirolli, Bernstein, Mehta, Monteaux, and others.

Parisot was driven to expand the cello repertoire, premiering numerous works for the instrument — several of which were written for him. Reacting to his 1966 premiere of Donald Martino’s Parisonatina al’Dodecafonia, composed for and dedicated to him, The Boston Globedeclared, “There is probably no cellist that can equal Parisot’s dazzling achievement.” The New York Timesweighed in, saying, “Those at this performance are not going to forget [Parisot’s] feat overnight.” Parisot’s virtuosity had its beginnings in his native Brazil, where he learned from his stepfather, cellist Tomazzo Babini.

“When I heard his beautiful sound, I showed the desire to play immediately,” Parisot told Kirshbaum. “But before he would give me my first lesson he taught me solfège for two years, I didn’t play the cello until I was 7.” Parisot credits Babini—the only cello teacher he ever had—with instilling in him the technique that enabled him to grow into a virtuoso.

Parisot made his debut with the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra at age 12. When he was 18, he became the ensemble’s principal cellist. It was in Rio de Janiero that he came to the attention of an American attaché to the Brazilian embassy, Carleton Sprague Smith. Impressed with Parisot’s virtuosity, Smith offered to help him study abroad. Parisot was eager to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with Emanuel Feuermann, who died before Parisot was scheduled to leave Brazil. Parisot’s plans changed, and, with Smith’s help, he secured a scholarship to study at the Yale School of Music, an offer he accepted on the condition that he would not have to take any cello lessons.

Parisot arrived at Yale in 1946 as a “special student.” He studied chamber music and, with composer Paul Hindemith, music theory. In 1948, he auditioned for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, with which he played professionally for two years. But the orchestra life was not for him, and he longed to have a solo career. In 1950, he gave his debut recital at Town Hall in New York City, launching a celebrated international career that produced recordings for RCA Victor, Angel, Westminster, and Phonodisc.

His artistry has not been limited to the performing arts. Parisot has produced a significant number of paintings, describing his process as “painting by ear.” His visual art works exude his love for color and texture and in that way are reminiscent of his cello playing. Many of his works have been exhibited in concert halls and galleries around the world. He has given away many of his paintings, selling them at Yale Cellos concerts and other special events, donating the proceeds to a travel fund that he founded for Yale School of Music students.

Parisot’s contributions to the field are immeasurable and will inform the practice of countless cellists in generations to come. Perhaps his most important gift to the art form is that he did not teach his students to play like him, but, rather, encouraged each of them to discover their own voice. “There are many people who imitate their teacher,” he said. “I hate the idea that there’s someone in the world who sounds like a little Aldo Parisot. You’ve got to be yourself. We’ve all got to find our own way.”

Aldo Parisot, the Cellist: The Importance of the Circle, a biography written by Susan Hawkshaw, was published in 2018 by Pendragon Press.



Published July 19, 2018
Share This Comments

Convocation 2016 Celebrates “Transcendent Yale Legacy”

YSM Dean Robert Blocker | Photo by Harold Shapiro

YSM Dean Robert Blocker | Convocation 2016

In his Convocation address, titled Music: A Transcendent Yale Legacy, School of Music Dean Robert Blocker told incoming and returning students, faculty, staff, and guests that “transcendent qualities are born and nurtured by people. Yale University and the School of Music are a collection of voices, a community and society of mutual learners. We, along with our predecessors, came here to better prepare ourselves to repair the world.

“It may surprise some of you to know that when the Yale Corporation voted to establish a School of Music in 1894, they also approved a Bachelor of Music degree that was open to women and men,” Blocker said in his remarks during the September 8, 2016, ceremony. “Cynics might say that not offering a Bachelor of Arts in Music retained the exclusivity of Yale College as a male enclave, but I find it a lot more interesting and compelling that music was Yale’s very first commitment to diversity and inclusivity.”

Celebrating the “transcendent voices” that have shaped the School’s legacy, Blocker recognized Ellen and Carl Stoeckel, Helen Hagan, Elaine Toscanini, Aldo Parisot, and Willie Ruff, among others.

“These transcendent musical voices of Yale and their cultural leadership transform lives, enrich communities, and bring hope to a broken world,” Blocker said. “Yale’s sons and daughters entrusted some of humankind’s treasures to us so that the transcendent qualities of character and mind, of light and truth – Yale’s motto, lux et veritas – can live through each of us and can bring hope to our planet. That is our responsibility, and it is our joy.” MORE

Published September 12, 2016
Share This Comments

Ralph Kirshbaum receives honorary doctorate from Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Carol Coburn Grigor, left, a member of the Yale School of Music's Board of Advisors, and Ralph Kirshbaum, in Glasgow, Scotland

Carol Colburn Grigor ’69MMA, a member of the Yale School of Music’s Board of Advisors, and Ralph Kirshbaum, in Glasgow, Scotland

Cellist Ralph Kirshbaum ’68BA was one of three acclaimed artists to receive an honorary degree from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in July. Jeffrey Sharkey ’88MM, the school’s principal, recognized Kirshbaum with an Honorary Doctor of Music Degree during graduation ceremonies on July 5. Actor David Tennant and choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne were also recognized.

“David, Sir Matthew and Ralph are all world leaders in their fields and we’re thrilled to celebrate their achievements,” Sharkey was quoted in a news release as saying. “This creates also a wonderful opportunity for our students to engage with such inspirational individuals as they prepare to enter into the professional world in their own right.”

A former student of Aldo Parisot, Kirshbaum has worked with many of the world’s most renowned ensembles and artists. For three decades, he performed and recorded in a trio with violinist György Pauk and YSM faculty pianist Peter Frankl. He is the Gregor Piatigorsky Chair in Violoncello and chair of the string department at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. He taught previously at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England, and, in 2012, founded the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival in Los Angeles. In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Kirshbaum, a Texas native, to a five-year term on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Published August 16, 2016
Share This Comments

[ concerts ]

Aldo Parisot leads the Grammy-nominated Yale Cellos on April 13


Parisot conducting Yale Cellos

The Yale School of Music presents the Grammy-nominated Yale Cellos in their popular annual concert on Wednesday, April 13 at 7:30 pm.

Aldo Parisot will lead the ensemble that he founded thirty-four years ago in a diverse program of music from the Baroque to present day, including the world premiere of “Parisot,” a three-movement work written for the Yale Cellos by Yale faculty composer Martin Bresnick. MORE

Published April 4, 2016
Share This Comments

[ in the press ]

Interlude: Revered Cellist Aldo Parisot full of ‘Fogo’

parisot_aInterlude | By Janet Horvath

Exuding Fogo or fire, Brazilian cellist Aldo Parisot continues to be an immense musical force with a busy schedule at the Yale School of Music. He teaches thirteen students and conducts the Yale Cellos. One of the greatest cellists of all time, he has performed in chamber music, in recital, and as soloist with the elite orchestras of the world and eminent maestros including Leonard Bernstein, Sir John Barbirolli, Zubin Mehta, Pierre Monteux and composers Paul Hindemith and Hector Villa-Lobos. Parisot has premiered numerous cello works including Villa-Lobos Cello Concerto No. 2, which was written for him. Parisot played the work with the New York Philharmonic in 1955, Parisot’s first performance in America, and Villa-Lobos was present. In addition to his teaching at Yale he was on the faculty of the Mannes, Peabody and Juilliard Schools.

Parisot is a man of contrasts. Soft-spoken with a wicked sense of humor, he owns a red sports car with the license plate “Fogo,” wears dark glasses, a cigarette constantly dangles from his bow hand, and his support of his students is unwavering. I had the privilege of seeing him in action. “These are not master classes,” he declared, “they are mastery classes.” Recently, we had a conversation. MORE

Published November 25, 2015
Source Share This Comments

[ concerts ]

Aldo Parisot leads the Yale Cellos in concert on Wednesday, April 15

yale_cellos1Aldo Parisot will lead the Grammy-nominated ensemble that he founded over thirty years ago in a diverse program of music from the baroque to the present day. The works will range from classics by Arcangelo Corelli, J. S. Bach, and Edvard Grieg to newer works by Ezra Laderman and Dave Brubeck. TICKET INFO

The concert begins with the Allegro agitato from Edvard Grieg’s Cello Sonata in A minor, performed by Chang Pan, a second-year master’s student of Aldo Parisot at the Yale School of Music. Assistant professor of cello Ole Akahoshi, who performed a duet with Yo-Yo Ma in Woolsey Hall in January, will then perform the Partita for Solo Cello by Ezra Laderman.

Laderman, who passed away on February 28, was a prolific composer who served as dean of the Yale School of Music from 1989 to 1995 and later as professor of composition until his retirement in 2013. His longtime connection with the Yale Cellos was particularly rich, and over the years Aldo Parisot and the Yale Cellos performed and recorded a number of works Laderman wrote for the ensemble. MORE

Published March 24, 2015
Share This Comments

[ In the Press ]

Cellos and jokes

Yale Alumni Magazine | Mar/Apr 2015
By Kathrin Lassila

If Yo-Yo Ma and fellow master cellist Aldo Parisot ’48Mus were a comedy duo, there’s no question who would be the straight man and who would deliver the punch lines. Ma and Parisot made it clear to a packed house at Woolsey Hall on January 13, in an unusual performance: they sat onstage and chatted.

The occasion was a concert to benefit a School of Music fund for cello students—and to celebrate Parisot. He’s Yale’s longest-serving faculty member and should probably be classed as an official Yale treasure. His bio is full of impressive lists. Born in Brazil, he has soloed with the great orchestras and conductors of the world, toured the globe many times, recorded with fine-arts labels, taught at leading US conservatories. MORE

Published March 12, 2015
Source Share This Comments

Yo-Yo Ma performs at Yale, awarded Sanford Medal (photos)

Yo-Yo-Ma-198-web Cellist Yo-Yo Ma visited Yale on Tuesday, January 13 to perform a sold-out benefit concert in Woolsey Hall. Ma, who received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Yale University in 1987, joined forces with Yale cello faculty Aldo Parisot and Ole Akahoshi as well as the Yale Philharmonia.

The event opened with Jean-Baptiste Barrière’s Sonata in G major for two cellos, for which Ma paired up with Assistant Professor of Cello Ole Akahoshi.

Ma then performed J.S. Bach’s Suite No. 3 in C major for solo cello to a rapt audience. MORE

Published January 16, 2015
Share This Comments

[ In the Press ]

Yo-Yo Ma Performs Benefit Concert for Yale Cellos

Cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Aldo Parisot

Cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Aldo Parisot

Yale Daily News | By Stephen Lewis, Staff Reporter

Last night, internationally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma shared the stage with Yale faculty and students for his first performance at the University since 1987.

Ma’s performance, which took place in Woolsey Hall, was a benefit concert for the Yale School of Music cello program. Ma performed six pieces that featured Yale professor of cello Ole Akahoshi and members of the Yale Philharmonia. Yale professor of conducting Toshiyuki Shimada highlighted Ma’s role as an ambassador of classical music in addition to his legacy as a musician, adding that he thinks Ma’s return for a second performance speaks to the importance of Yale in the cello world. MORE

Published January 15, 2015
Source Share This Comments

[ concerts ]

Yo-Yo Ma to perform benefit concert at Yale January 13

Yo-Yo Ma | Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Yo-Yo Ma | Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, whose artistry and wide-ranging interests have earned him the adulation of audiences worldwide, will come to Yale University to perform a special benefit concert in Woolsey Hall on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 7:30 p.m.

Appearing at the invitation of legendary cellist and Yale professor Aldo Parisot, Yo-Yo Ma will perform a suite by J.S. Bach for solo cello, in a duet with Yale assistant professor of cello Ole Akahoshi, and as a concerto soloist with members of the Yale Philharmonia conducted by Mr. Parisot.

Of special interest, Yo-Yo Ma will interview Aldo Parisot onstage after intermission in what should be a lively and informative conversation between two masters of the cello who have enjoyed a warm friendship for many years. MORE

Published November 17, 2014
Share This Comments