Luminary American Cellist Lynn Harrell Has Passed Away Unexpectedly

Cellist Lynn Harrell, one of the best and most prominent American classical musicians of his generation has died, aged 76

(Photo credit: Christian Steiner)


No cause of death has been announced at this stage, but there has been no indication it was COVID-19 related.

A protege of Leonard Rose and Orlando Cole, Harrell will be remembered as one of the eminent cellists of the 20th Century — performing and recording regularly with many of the world’s finest orchestras and conductors.

He had served teaching positions on faculty at the Royal Academy of MusicCleveland Institute of Music, and The Juilliard School.

“We have lost a wonderful father, husband, mensch …” Lynn's wife Helen Nightengale said in an online statement. 

"All four of Lynn's children, his sister, friends and I mourn him along with those who were lucky enough to know his music, his wit and his humanity ... you were an end of an era, Dear Lynn, and will be missed more than you will ever know. We love you to the moon and back. Rest in Peace, dear one, you have earned it," she said.

"Lynn was one of my oldest colleagues and friends, we have known and highly respected each other for almost 47 years," cellist Mischa Maisky today told The Violin Channel. "He was a phenomenal cellist with facilities and a sound like no one else. He was a real gentle giant as a human being he will be greatly missed by anyone who had the privilege and pleasure to enjoy his larger than life personality."



"Goodbye Lynn Harrell my dearest friend and colleague ... your gorgeous and unique way of making your cello sing like a human voice and your immense generosity ... we will all miss you dearly, rest in peace," French cellist Gautier Capucon said.

"Today the world of music lost one of its most distinguished stars," conductor Gerard Schwarz told The Violin Channel. "Lynn was a great artist, teacher, humanitarian, and a dear friend to me and our whole family as well as countless others."

"One of the greatest joys of my life was knowing him as a dear friend and an extraordinary musician. His love of life and family was so lovely to see and his joy in making music was contagious. I will miss him terribly and send much love to Helen and all of his children," Schwarz said.

Violinist Nigel Kennedy shared with The Violin Channel, "It was during my extended sabbatical from classical music that, out of the blue, I received a letter expressing regret at my withdrawal from the classical world and generous admiration for the way I play. The letter was from Lynn Harrell, the greatest cellist of his generation and maybe for the last hundred years. This generous outreach was typical of Lynn and lead to us recording and touring duo repertoire for cello & violin around the world.

During our work together he displayed the incredible joy of music and of life. Always growing as an artist what was even more important was the generosity, humility, honesty and openness epitomized by Lynn the man. Thank you Lynn, for wonderful music & memories."

Our condolences are with Lynn's family, friends, colleagues, and students.





Geoffrey John Davies, New York.