“I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play Kodaly’s Sonata for solo cello for him on one of his visits to Oxford in 1960. It was a monumental experience because I consider this to be one of the greatest works written for solo cello since Bach wrote his cello Suites approximately two hundred years earlier.”
– Rohan de Saram
“There are few of his generation that have such gifts.”
– Pablo Casals
Rohan de Saram was born in Sheffield, UK, and spent the first ten years of his life in Sri Lanka. He began studying the cello at age 9, and by age 16 was awarded the Suggia Award, allowing him to study with Sir John Barbirolli in London and with the great Pablo Casals in Puerto Rico. Casals later said of his pupil, “There are few of his generation that have such gifts.”
De Saram made his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1960 with the New York Philharmonic, at the invitation of Dimitri Mitropoulos, playing Khatchaturian’s Cello Concerto conducted by Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. Throughout his career, de Saram has performed as a soloist with major orchestras in Europe, Asia, and North America under many of the world’s leading conductors, including Sir John Barbirolli, Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Colin Davis, Jean Martinon, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, and Sir Malcolm Sargent. Rohan de Saram was a member of the Arditti Quartet from 1977 to 2005, during which time the quartet received a Grammy Award for their recording of chamber works by Elliott Carter. Numerous works have been written for and premiered by Rohan de Saram, including Luciano Berio’s Sequenza XIV and, although not written for him, he gave the world premiere of György Ligeti’s Sonata for Solo Cello and the UK premiere of Arnold Bax’s Rhapsodic Ballad and Xenakis’ Kottos.
De Saram received the Deshamaniya, one of Sri Lanka’s highest honors, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Sri Lanka Foundation in Los Angeles. He has released many recordings both with the Arditti Quartet, with other artists and as a soloist. Most recently, he recorded works for solo cello by Bax, Cassado, Dallapiccola, Ligeti and others, released by First Hand Records. His book Conversations with Joachim Steinheuer, was published in 2013 by Wolke Verlag.