Laurence Lesser is a laureate of the 1966 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and a participant in the historic Heifetz-Piatigorsky concerts and recordings. Lesser has been soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, the New Japan Philharmonic and orchestras worldwide. He has collaborated with conductors such as Ozawa, Mehta, Levine, Rostropovich, Tilson Thomas, and many others. He was the first to record the Schoenberg Cello Concerto, and in 1966 was the first to perform it with orchestra since its 1936 introduction by Emanuel Feuermann.
During the Bach anniversary year of 2000, Lesser performed the cycle of the complete cello suites several times. One byproduct of that was the creation of a book by Eric Siblin about the suites, which came about because he heard Lesser’s presentation that year in Toronto. More recently, he performed the complete Suites in one evening at NEC’s Jordan Hall to great critical acclaim.
Also in 2000, Lesser gave the first Japanese performance of Tan Dun’s Elegy – Snow in June at Seiji Ozawa’s Saito Kinen Festival in Matsumoto.
As a chamber musician he has participated at the Casals, Marlboro, Ravinia, Menlo, Spoleto, and Santa Fe festivals, and over many years has been a guest of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. He has served as a member of juries for numerous international competitions, including the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1994 and 2007. In 2003 he was on the jury of both the Paulo Competition in Helsinki and the Feuermann Competition in Berlin, in 1994 the Adam Competition in New Zealand, and again in 2006 the Feuermann Competition in Berlin.
Lesser attended Harvard College, where he studied mathematics and graduated with honors. At the end of a Fulbright year studying music in Germany, he won first prize in the Cassadó Competition in Siena, Italy. At the master classes with Casals in Zermatt in 1961, the great master singled Lesser out for praise, saying “Thank God who has given you this great gift!” His New York debut recital in 1969 was greeted as “triumphant.”
In a life full of successful concerts, Lesser has always been passionate about teaching. He came to New England Conservatory in Boston in 1974 as a member of the faculty, after being the teaching assistant of Gregor Piatigorsky at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and spending four years at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. Lesser currently teaches an international class of highly gifted cellists at the Conservatory. He served as president of NEC from 1983 to 1996, and as its acting Chief Executive Officer for the 2006/2007 academic year.
Lesser plays a 1622 cello made by the brothers Amati in Cremona, Italy. His recordings of the complete Beethoven for cello and piano with HaeSun Paik were released last year. Other recordings have appeared on the RCA, Columbia, Melodiya, and CRI labels.