Biography of cellist James Kreger

Internationally acclaimed as one of the foremost cellists of his generation, James Kreger first gained worldwide attention in 1974 at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, where he was the top American prizewinner and judges and audiences hailed his playing as “amazingly poetical and technically superb.”

Critics have frequently commented on qualities that set Kreger apart from other cellists, citing his “broad range of expressive nuance” and his deep emotional conviction, allied to a “total command of the instrument” (The New York Times). The distinguished Soviet cellist Daniel Shafran observed that Kreger’s performances “were truly lit up with inspiration,” while musicologist Nicholas Kenyon, reviewing Kreger’s London recital debut at Wigmore Hall, wasted no words: “James Kreger is a marvel.”

Kreger rapidly became a familiar figure on the international concert scene in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Among the many internationally acclaimed conductors with whom he has worked are

  • Erich Leinsdorf
  • Eugene Ormandy
  • Leopold Stokowski
  • Carlo Maria Giulini
  • Fabio Luisi
  • Leonard Slatkin
  • Michael Tilson Thomas
  • Zubin Mehta
  • Carlos Kleiber
  • Gerard Schwarz
  • Riccardo Muti
  • James Levine

With his large and varied repertoire, Kreger has made guest appearances throughout the United States, the Orient, and Eastern and Western Europe. He has been a featured artist at major music festivals, including

  • Casals
  • Mostly Mozart
  • Marlboro
  • Ravinia
  • Tanglewood
  • Dubrovnik
  • Brno
  • Stratford
  • Saratoga
  • Newport
  • Chopin
  • Appalachian Summer

Kreger’s televised appearances range from KBS-TV in Korea to PBS-TV and CBS-TV’s “Camera Three” in the U.S., and he has been heard on Dutch and German radio, NPR in the U.S., and NHK in Japan. A passionate chamber musician, Kreger caused a sensation in the music world when he made his 1971 Carnegie Hall recital debut with pianist Garrick Ohlsson. Allen Hughes of The New York Times commented, “Kreger’s playing resembles that of Mstislav Rostropovich and Jacqueline du Pre in that it is strong, vigorous and impassioned. But in this recital, it was always firmly controlled, never losing musical or tonal focus, never splitting a sentiment to shreds.” Since then, he has collaborated with some of the greatest artists of our time, notably

  • James Levine
  • Heinz Holliger
  • Andras Schiff
  • Richard Goode
  • Felix Galimir
  • Wynton Marsalis
  • Oscar Shumsky
  • Jean-Philippe Collard
  • Jean-Pierre Rampal
  • James Galway
  • Maureen Forrester

and with such elite chamber ensembles as

  • Tokyo Quartet
  • Vermeer Quartet
  • Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

In addition, he was invited by legendary cellist Janos Starker to be guest soloist at Indiana University’s American Cello Congress.

Kreger can be heard on the following labels:

  • CBS/Sony
  • RCA/BMG
  • Guild Music
  • Leonarda
  • Melodiya
  • Music and Arts
  • Koch

His released recordings include Mendelssohn’s Complete Works for Cello and Piano with pianist Gerald Robbins, on the Koch Discover International label, and two Guild Music CDs that feature him in Strauss’s Don Quixote for cello and orchestra, Victor Herbert’s Cello Concerto No. 2, Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B Minor, and Dvořák’s ravishing Silent Woods.

Kreger was born and raised in Nashville, beginning cello studies at age 9. A prize-winning student of Leonard Rose and Harvey Shapiro — and also deeply influenced by his work with Pablo Casals and Gregor Piatigorsky — he won the prestigious Piatigorsky Prize at age 18, later graduating from the Juilliard School with its highest honors: the Morris Loeb Prize and the Felix Salmond Award. His other awards and recognition include a Martha Baird Rockefeller grant as well as tours under the auspices of the U.S. State Department and the sponsorship of the Leventritt Foundation.

Every year, Kreger devotes a significant amount of time to teaching and coaching the young cellists of the next generation. He taught at the Juilliard School for more than 25 years. In addition, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas invited him to be guest cello teacher and coach with the New World Symphony in Miami, a training orchestral academy where the most gifted graduates of distinguished music conservatories come to prepare for leadership positions in orchestras and ensembles throughout the world. Kreger resides in New York City and continues to concertize all over the world.

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Cellist James Kreger