The Dutch cellist, Pieter Wispelwey, was born in Haarlem and grew up in Santpoort. From a very early age he was exposed to the sounds of his father's amateur string quartet when they rehearsed at the Wispelwey home. Later on he took lessons from Dicky Boeke and Anner Bylsma in Amsterdam, followed by studies with Paul Katz in the USA and William Pleeth in the UK. He 1992 he became the first cellist to receive the Netherlands Music Prize, given to the most promising young musician in the Netherlands. Boeke encouraged him to listen to as many things as possible, and growing up during the height of the period performance movement in Amsterdam in the 1960s and 1970s also gave him ample opportunity to learn a variety of styles.
Pieter Wispelwey is among the fir/st of a generation of performers who are equally at ease on the modern or the period cello (Baroque cello and the piccolo cello). In his twentieshe he was considered to be an enfant terrible by some, but typecast as a Baroque cellist by others. Through his concerts and recordings he has come to be regarded as one of the world's leading cello soloists. His acute stylistic awareness, combined with a truly original interpretation and a phenomenal technical mastery, has won the hearts of critics and public alike in repertoire ranging from J.S. Bach to Schnittke, Elliott Carter and works composed for him. In 1990 his first recording with Channel Classics Records, J.S. Bach’s Cello Suites (BWV 1007-1012), received considerable acclaim. The support of Channel Classics has enabled him to record his own choice of repertoire, with his own choice of artists and orchestras. This has resulted in records with unusual repertoire such as Franz Schubert violin sonatinas, Frédéric Chopin waltzes, mazurkas and preludes and the Bach Gamba sonatas played with his own personal instrumentations.
Pieter Wispelwey’s career spans five continents and he has appeared as soloist with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Academy of Ancient Music, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra, Kammerorchester Basel, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra NHK Symphony, Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Russian National Symphony, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Camerata Academica Salzburg, Sapporo Symphony, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic, and Yomiuri Nippon, and has recorded with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic. He has collaborated with conductors including Iván Fischer, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Herbert Blomstedt, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Jeffrey Tate, Kent Nagano, Sir Neville Marriner, Philippe Herreweghe, Vassily Sinaisky, Vladimir Jurowski, Paavo Berglund, Louis Langrée, Marc Minkowski, Ton Koopman, Libor Pesek and Sir Roger Norrington. Highlights among future concerto performances include the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Japan Philharmonic, Sao Paulo Symphony, National Symphony of Ireland, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Musikkollegium Orchestra Winterthur, Edmonton Symphony, a tour in Scandinavia with the Münchener Kammerorchester and in Belgium with the Flanders Symphony Orchestra.
Pieter Wispelwey has established a reputation as one of the most charismatic recitalists on the circuit, appearing as a recitalist all over the world including in London (Wigmore Hall), Paris (Châtelet, Louvre), Amsterdam (Concertgebouw, Muziekgebouw), Brussels (Bozar), Berlin (Konzerthaus), Milan (Societta del Quartetto), Buenos Aires (Teatro Colon), Sydney (The Utzon Room, Opera House), Los Angeles (Walt Disney Hall) and New York (Lincoln Center). He has appeared with many orchestras and ensembles both with and without a conductor. Notable projects without conductor have been the touring and recording of the Robert Schumann and Dmitri Shostakovich cello concertos with the Australian Chamber Orchestra under Richard Tognetti. Forthcoming recital appearances include duo projects with the forte-pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout (Vienna Konzerthaus, London Wigmore Hall, Bruges Concertgebouw), pianist Cédric Tiberghien (Paris Theatre des Champs-Elysees Paris, Madrid Auditorio Nacional, London Wigmore Hall), solo recitals in Paris (Louvre), London (LSO St Luke’s, Wigmore Hall), Boston (Celebrity Series), Dortmund (Konzerthaus), Melbourne Recital Hall, Tokyo (Topan Hall), Beijing (National Performing Arts Centre), Seoul, Athens (Megaron Hall), as well as festivals in Amsterdam (Prinsengracht), France (Toulon, Beauvais), Poland (Wratislavia Cantans), Israel (Eilat) and tours in Italy, Germany and the North America. His chamber music partners include pianists Dejan Lazic, Alexander Melnikov and Paolo Giacometti, harpsichordists Menno van Delft and Richard Egarr, violinists Viktoria Mullova and Akiko Suwanai, and the Emerson String Quartet.
Pieter Wispelwey has been the Artistic Director of the Beauvais Cello Festival in France since 2009, drawing together some of the finest cellists on the circuit for a week of cello recitals, concertos and chamber music, featuring an exciting range of new music for the instrument.
Pieter Wispelwey’s discography, available on Onyx and Channel Classics, displays an impressive line up of over twenty recordings, six of which attracted major international awards. Channel Classics has allowed Wispelwey great freedom, not only in choosing a recording repertoire that includes mainstream works (L.v. Beethoven's sonatas), lesser known works (Lutoslawski's concerto, Crumb's sonata), and transcriptions (Chopin waltzes and mazurkas), but also in the production process from editing to liner notes. This allows him to control what he wants to communicate, because what is important to him is communicating the original ideas and sounds the composer intended to the listener. Recent releases include William Walton’s Cello Concerto (Sydney Symphony Orchestra/Jeffrey Tate), Prokofiev’s Symphonie Concertante (Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/Vassily Sinaisky), Benjamin Britten‘s Cello Symphony - all recorded live - and a unique set of works by Schubert for cello and piano (Fantasy D934, Grand Duo D574, Arpeggione Sonata), recorded on period instruments. His most recent releases have included a recital disc featuring Felix Mendelssohn’s cello sonatas and a selection of Chopin Waltzes arranged for cello and piano (out in May 2011) on Onyx, and his 3rd recording of J.S. Bach’s Suites for solo cello (BWV 1007-1012) recorded in June 2012 on Evil Penguin Records.
Pieter Wispelwey is comfortable playing the modern cello with either metal or gut strings and also on the baroque four- and five-string cello. This allows him a repertoire ranging from J.S. Bach to Elliott Carter. Growing up exposed to period instruments as the norm, Wispelwey developed a conviction that, under the right conditions, much 18th- and 19th-century music sounds superior when played on gut strings than on metal. But he is not a purist but rather a practical musician and plays a modern cello if conditions make it sound better than a period instrument. He is well-versed in the primary repertoire, able to play a couple of different concertos and different recital programs all in one week. Wispelwey sometimes views concerto performances as "combat" between the soloist and orchestra or soloist and conductor, but for the most part believes that a performance is all about communication between musicians and between musicians and the audience. He plays on a 1760 Giovanni Battista Guadagnini cello and a 1710 Rombouts baroque cello. Since the age of 19 he has resided in Amsterdam.