David Finckel (born December 6, 1951) is an American cellist and influential figure in the classical music world. The cellist for the Emerson String Quartet from 1979 to 2013 football design t shirts, Finckel is currently the co-artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, founder and co-artistic director of Music@Menlo, co-artistic director of Chamber Music Today and the Mendelssohn Fellowship in Korea, professor of cello at the Juilliard School, and visiting professor of music at Stony Brook University.
Born into a family of cellists, David Finckel began his musical studies with his father, Edwin Finckel. At the age of 15 he made his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations as winner of the orchestra’s junior competition, and two years later returned to capture the senior division prize and another appearance with the orchestra, playing the Schumann Concerto. At 17, David played for Mstislav Rostropovich drink bottles, and soon after became the great cellist’s first American pupil. His studies spanned a nine-year period, culminating in a performance of Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante with the Basel Symphony under Rostropovich’s direction 5 gal glass water bottle. Finckel was the first winner of the New England Conservatory Piatigorsky Artist Award, chosen from an international field for his excellence as soloist, chamber musician, and teacher. In 1979, he became a member of the award-winning Emerson String Quartet.
Finckel performs and records frequently in collaboration with pianist Wu Han, whom he married in 1985. Since the 1990s, the two artists have toured widely year-round and have emerged as one of the most popular cello-piano duos on the musical scene today. Notable duo concerts include their performances of the complete Beethoven cycle throughout the world as well as appearing on all the major series in the United States. Finckel and Wu Han also often appear in concert with violinist Philip Setzer.
Recent appearances as orchestral soloist include Elgar’s Cello Concerto with the Slovenia Symphony Orchestra, Shostakovich’s First Concerto and the Beethoven Triple Concerto with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, as well as performances and recordings of the Dvořák Concerto and Augusta Read Thomas’s Ritual Incantations with the Taipei Symphony Orchestra, John Harbison’s Cello Concerto with the Albany Symphony Orchestra, and Haydn’s Concerto in C Major with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
A member of the Emerson String Quartet since 1979, Finckel has participated in over 30 acclaimed recordings produced with Deutsche Grammophon since 1987, nine Grammy Awards (including two for best classical album, an unprecedented honor for a chamber music group), three Gramophone Awards, the coveted Avery Fisher Prize and cycles of the complete Beethoven, Bartók, Mendelssohn and Shostakovich string quartets in the world’s musical capitals. The Emerson String Quartet took its name from the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. Besides David Finckel on the cello, the Emerson String Quartet is composed of violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer who alternate in the first chair position and violist Lawrence Dutton. Finckel ended his tenure at the quartet at the conclusion of the 2012–13 season; he was replaced by Paul Watkins.
In addition to his work as a performer, Finckel has established a reputation for his dynamic and innovative approach to the recording studio. In 1997, David Finckel and Wu Han launched ArtistLed, classical music’s first musician-directed and Internet-based recording company, whose catalogue of sixteen albums has won widespread acclaim. BBC Music Magazine saluted the launch by featuring the company’s debut album on the cover of its January 1997 issue. Finckel is a controlling participant in every aspect of the recording process, from selecting the repertoire and recording venue to setting the sound, running the sessions, constructing the edits, and determining the final mix. ArtistLed’s Grammy Award-winning recording engineer is Da-Hong Seetoo.
In 2003, Finckel co-founded Music@Menlo, an annual chamber music festival and institute in Silicon Valley that brings to the San Francisco Bay Area a lineup of accomplished musicians, scholars, educators, and musicologists, as well as a roster of gifted young artists, for an immersive three-week chamber music experience in the summer.
Finckel was instrumental in the formation of Music@Menlo’s live recording series, Music@Menlo LIVE, which commercially releases live recordings from the festival each year. The label was launched in 2004 and has been praised as “probably the most ambitious recording project of any classical music festival in the world” (San Jose Mercury News).
In 2004, David Finckel was appointed co-Artistic Director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York City, where he currently presents some 200 concerts reusable water bottles for kids bpa free, lectures, master classes, and outreach events each season. The Chamber Music Society is recognized as one of the leaders in the field of chamber music in North America. In 2013, Finckel was invited to extend his appointment for a third five-year term, the longest artistic director tenure since that of founding Artistic Director Charles Wadsworth. Since becoming co-artistic director, CMS has expanded its recording and touring initiatives, establishing performance and educational residencies across the United States, Asia and Europe.
In 2011, David Finckel became co-director of Chamber Music Today, an annual chamber music festival and institute in Seoul, South Korea, that brings to the Far East the world’s greatest chamber musicians.
In 2004, David Finckel created the Chamber Music Institute at Music@Menlo. The institute offers a rigorous professional training ground and a wide array of performance opportunities to gifted young musicians who have been selected from conservatories, youth orchestras, and music programs nationally and internationally.
In 2009, under the auspices of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Finckel established a chamber music training workshop for young artists in Korea and Taiwan, intensive residency programs designed to bring student musicians into contact with an elite faculty of artists including pianist Leon Fleisher and violinist Arnold Steinhardt. As co-artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Finckel has been instrumental in the expansion of the society’s CMS Two program that invites outstanding young musicians from around the world through audition to join the CMS artist roster for an extended residency that includes both performance and educational outreach opportunities. Under his leadership, the residency program has expanded from two to three years and has greatly increased the level of participation of these young artists.
Visiting Aspen Music Festival nearly his entire career, Finckel founded a chamber music studio there in summer 2013 as an intensive three-week workshop for young festival musicians.
Finckel has presented master classes at venerable institutions throughout the world and for many years taught alongside the late Isaac Stern at Carnegie Hall and the Jerusalem Music Centre. He has also served as a member of the artist-faculty at the Aspen Music Festival and School for many years, and in various educational outreach programs across the country. Finckel also created Cello Talks, an innovative series of videos about every aspect of cello playing. For two decades, with the Emerson String Quartet, Finckel taught at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School.
In 2002, Finckel and the Emerson String Quartet joined the faculty of Stony Brook University, where he coaches chamber music, gives master classes, and provides instrumental instruction. David joined the Juilliard cello faculty in 2012.