How Six Top Cellists Are Blending and Bending Genres

Known for her multimedia performances and premieres of new works, cellist Maya Beiser performs at TED in 2011.(Photo: Suzie Katz)
Known for her multimedia performances and premieres of new works, cellist Maya Beiser performs at TED in 2011.(Photo: Suzie Katz)

Inspired by recent stories about cellists Joshua Roman, Dale Henderson and others, we’ve compiled a list of some other genre-busting cellists who are breaking out of traditional concert venues, collaborating with a diverse array of artists and using technology to find new audiences for their music.

Here are 6 of our favorites.

Matt Haimovitz

Israeli-born cellist Matt Haimovitz is perhaps most well know for bringing “Bach to Bars,” night clubs, coffee shops accross North America, Canada and the U.K.

Besides performing in non-traditional classical venues, Haimovitz also tackles new and unconventional repertoire.

Watch a sample from Haimovitz’s 2010 album, Meeting of the Spirits.

Joshua Roman

Like Haimoitz, Joshua Roman’s, hallmark is versatility. Roman’s launched his career by becoming principal cellist for the Seattle Symphony at age 22, but has since also taken up a solo career.

While Roman remains an avid performer of orchestral and chamber music, he tends to gravitate toward the bleeding edge of technology, performing with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra – he was the only solo artist in their Carnegie Hall debut as well as their spokesperson. Most recently, Roman was awarded a 2011 TED Fellowship, for making classical music available to wider audiences.

Like Haimovitz, Roman is passionate about updating chamber music by reinventing it as a traveling show, meant not only to bring dusty music back to life for new audiences outside of the concert hall.

Here is Joshua Roman performing the Halvorsen’s Passacaglia with violinist Robert Gupta and cellist at TED.

Dale Henderson

Remember Dale Henderson?

He’s the cellist playing nothing but the six Bach Cello Suites for New York City subway commuters. His project, “Bach in the Subways,” is an inspired response to what Henderson describes as a general concern among classical musicians that the genre is dying.

Watch cellist Dale Henderson perform in a NY Subway station.


Luka Sulic & Stjepan Hauser (aka 2 CELLOS) are two classically-trained musicians in their early twenties from Croatia who suddenly went viral on YouTube with their creative interpretations of 90s pop music hits.

After a video of their cover of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal hit 5 million views on YouTube, Sony Mastworks decided to offer them a record deal.

Their new album (to be released on July 19) includes covers of everything from Nirvana to Coldplay.

Watch the video that brought 2 CELLOS to the attention of Sony execs, Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal arranged for two cellos.

Maya Beiser

We can’t leave out New York-based cellist Maya Beiser, muse for many minimalist and post-minimalist composers like Phillip Glass, Steve Reich, and Tan Dun. Besides her solo work, for which she is likely best known, Beiser also frequently performs with the rock-chamber ensemble Bang on a Can All-Stars and is known for her multi-media performances.

Here she is playing her version of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, from her album Provenance:

Erik Friedlander

Also from New York, jazz cellist Erik Friedlander blends traditional jazz with unconventional cello technique  – he’s often seen performing without a bow.

Here he is talking about his most recent album Bonebridge, featuring Friedlander’s early work with a jazz quartet including New York slide guitarist Doug Wamble.

Which cellist is your favorite and who did we miss? Leave a comment and let us know!