Boris Pergamenshikov was born in 1948 in Leningrad, where he later studied with Emmanuel Fischmann. While still a student at the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) Conservatory he began playing concerts with the leading orchestras of Moscow and Leningrad. In 1974 he won the First Prize and Gold Medal at the Fifth International Tchaikovsky Competition, a victory that established internationally his position among leading cellists.
After emigrating to the West in 1977 he intensified his concert activities worldwide and was a celebrated guest in cities and music festivals from Berlin to Tokyo, and from Salzburg to Jerusalem. His recent schedule has included the festivals in Edinburgh, Salzburg, Berlin, Vienna, Schleswig Holstein, the BBC Prom, and the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York. He has given concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic (London), Bavarian Radio Symphony, BBC Symphony, NHK Tokyo, Orchestre National de France and the Czech Philharmonic.
Significant to Mr. Pergamenshikov’s artistic development has been the experience of working as soloist or chamber musician with personalities and groups such as Claudio Abbado, the Amadeus and Alban Berg Quartets, Gidon Kremer, Witold Lutoslawski, Yehudi Menuhin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Mstislav Rostropovich, Andras Schiff and Sandar Vegh.
Mr. Pergamenshikov has recorded for Chandos, Decca, EMI, Orfeo, Hänssler and Sony Classical. One of his recent recordings, the Cello Concerto Tout le monde lointain, by Henry Dutilleux, was awarded the Diapason d’Or.
Mr. Pergamenshikov was a professor at the Hochschule für Musik “Hanns Eisler” in Berlin.
(photo from Melodia LP)
Boris Pergamenschikow, who has died aged 55, was a cellist and chamber musician of the highest quality who was once described as "a soloist in the 18th century mould"; he came to notice in this country in 1990 while taking part in Andras Schiff's memorable week-long Beethoven and Bartok Festival at the Wigmore Hall.
Over the last 12 years he had also become a regular fixture at the Manchester International Cello Festival. As well as chamber music and masterclasses, Pergamenschikow was one of the few to take a starring role at the event. At his first appearance in 1992 he gave an account of the Schumann concerto in which his playing was described as having a "combination of authority and personality". Three years ago he tackled the Hindemith concerto at the festival.
Pergamenschikow was reunited with Schiff at the 1995 Edinburgh Festival in chamber works by Dvorak. On one evening he took centre stage with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Sir Charles Mackerras in the Dvorak Cello Concerto, extracting from his 18th-century Montagnana cello a sound of rugged beauty that thrilled audience and critics alike. In Jerusalem the following year he compressed all five of Beethoven's sonatas for cello and piano - written over a period of 20 years - into one marathon recital.
After several Edinburgh Festivals Pergamenschikow's relationship with Scotland was sealed when, in October 2000, he was a triumphant guest soloist with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Walter Weller on their tour of Austria.
By this time his concerto appearances were beginning to challenge his hitherto well-cultivated image as a discreet chamber musician, a fact he acknowledged in an interview in February 2002. "In the last few months I have made several solo appearances," he said. "But chamber music is a very important part of me. The musical quality is much greater in chamber music than when I play as a soloist. I learn so much from my colleagues."
Boris Pergamenschikow was born on August 29 1948 in Leningrad, the son of a cellist. He studied with Emmanuel Fischmann at the Leningrad Conservatory, winning the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1974. He emigrated three years later, settling in Cologne, where he stayed until 1998. For the last five years he was professor at Berlin's Hanns Eisler Music Academy.
Although he spoke proudly of not being confined to working with one set group of musicians, saying "it would restrict me too much", in 1981 Pergamenschikow briefly formed a trio with the veteran violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan and the pianist Paul Badura-Skoda. He was also a regular partner of the pianist Lars Vogt, and when they gave a recital together on Vogt's birthday last year, Pergamenschikow contrived to turn one of their encores into a rendition of Happy Birthday. It was to be their last appearance together.
A cellist of seemingly limitless talent, Pergamenschikow tended to eschew the limelight. He turned up in unusual locations or on unexpected recordings, with performances that invariably thrilled and challenged. He played the Shostakovich first cello concerto in Newcastle two years ago, a result of his friendship with the Northern Sinfonia's artistic director Thomas Zehetmair, and just last week his new recording of Brahms sonatas with Vogt was reviewed favourably in The Telegraph.
Asked once if it would be conceivable to organise a festival similar to the Manchester cello festival for, say, violinists, he replied: "The poor violinists don't have access to the lower registers. They always have to be soloists; even in string quartets, they take the most important roles. We are sometimes kings, sometimes peasants; we have to do everything between extremes - we have to learn to be more flexible."
Boris Pergamenschikow, who died of cancer on April 30, was a marvellous mimic, using his deep Russian voice to imitate anyone from politicians to musicians. Unlike many musicians he was not highly strung, and could always see the funny side of any calamity.
He had been due to take part in this year's Manchester Cello Festival, which is currently taking place at the Royal Northern College of Music from May 5-9 under the artistic direction of Ralph Kirshbaum, performing in Penderecki's Concerto Grosso for three cellos (which he premiered in June 2001). He was remembered at the opening dinner there on Tuesday night.
He is survived by his wife of more than 30 years, Tanya, and their son Daniel.