Leonard Rose was a member of a Russian family who left Kiev for the USA. His father was an amateur cellist from whom Rose had his first instruction; his formal studies began after the family had moved to Florida, where he learnt with Walter Grossman at the Miami Conservatory. He also took instruction in New York with his cousin Frank Miller, principal cellist of the NBC Symphony Orchestra, after which he won a scholarship to the Curtis Institute to study with Felix Salmond. Rose then became assistant principal cellist of the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Toscanini, but left after only one season to become principal in the Cleveland Orchestra under Rodzinski; at this time he was also director of the cello departments of the Cleveland Institute and Oberlin College. Later he joined the New York Philharmonic and it was with this ensemble that he made his concerto début at Carnegie Hall in 1944.
Following this meteoric rise through prominent orchestras Rose decided to concentrate more upon solo playing, although he continued to teach widely including at The Juilliard School and The Curtis Institute. He favoured positions and techniques that were natural and disagreed with the dictum that the cello bow could be held the way violinists held theirs, with the little finger on top. His theory on vibrato was that it should come from the lower arm, with the hand pivoting on the finger pressing on the string and the upper arm moving passively, noting that Kreisler had the same approach; Rose believed that this lower-arm technique gave the greatest possible freedom of width and speed of vibrato. His pupils included Lynn Harrell, Ronald Leonard, Yo-Yo Ma, Stephen Kates, Nancy Green and the principal cellists of many leading American orchestras, each of whom exerted a strong influence upon later generations of players. Indeed, Rose himself is often seen as the heir to the Salmond approach; Salmond presented him with his own music library, to which Rose contributed by creating a number of performing editions of cello works. He was a respected chamber player, performing trios with Stern and Istomin (with whom he began playing regularly in 1961), and sonatas with various pianists, notably Graffman. He commissioned, and later recorded, William Schuman’s A Song of Orpheus.
Rose, who played a cello by Nicolò Amati dated 1662, made well-respected recordings of the Schumann Cello Concerto with Bernstein and Bloch’s Schelomo with Eugene Ormandy. The recordings selected here reveal a well-connected post-Romantic sound, resonant and deep-toned and, in the modern manner, relatively stable in tempo, with a well-modulated and pliable vibrato. The Bach Sonata in G with Glenn Gould (1974) is a distinguished reading, not over-dominated by Gould’s idiosyncratic pianism. The 1964 Beethoven Triple Concerto here is very much a modern conception, although Rose’s cello playing strikes one as less invasive than Stern’s rather heavy-handed violin playing. In the Brahms Double Concerto with Isaac Stern (1954) Rose delivers a strong performance rather more polished technically than Stern’s own (discussed in his own entry elsewhere in this book). Saint-Saëns’s Concerto No. 1 (1967) is an equally successful if relatively conventional reading, whilst the Brahms Sonata in F (1982) is perhaps too heavy in the finale and disfigured from a modern perspective by a rather wearing vibrato. Nonetheless, all of these recordings reveal Rose’s expert playing and explain more than adequately his influence upon the next generation of players.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)
Role: Classical Artist