Clancy Newman

"The youthful Newman once again proved that he is an exceptional cellist"
The Strad

"Newman’s technical mastery proved entirely dazzling." San
Francisco Chronicle

"Newman quickly won listeners’ hearts, exhibiting both a sensitivity and intensity…"
Chicago Tribune

"Newman played it with an exhilarating energy and a clear sense of its contours." [Ligeti Sonata for Solo Cello] The New York Times

"Newman reminds me a bit of Joshua Bell. He is a throwback to those golden days when string players were not afraid to express themselves with generous amounts of vibrato."
New York Sun

In 2001, cellist Clancy Newman won the coveted first prize of the prestigious Walter W. Naumburg International Competition; Naumburg presented him in recital at Lincoln Centerís Alice Tully Hall, a performance that garnered enormous critical acclaim. He was also named the recipient of a 2004 Avery Fisher Career Grant, and as such appeared on A & Eís "Breakfast with the Arts".

From Albany, NY, Mr. Newman began playing cello at the age of six, and at twelve he received his first significant public recognition when he won the Gold Medal for Strings at the Dandenong Youth Festival in Australia, competing against instrumentalists twice his age. In the years that followed, he won numerous other competitions, including the Juilliard School Cello Competition, the National Federation of Music Clubs competition, and the Astral Artists National Auditions.

He developed an interest in composition at an early age, writing his first piece when he was seven. His output now includes pieces for solo cello, cello and piano, two string quartets, a concerto for cello and string orchestra, duets for two cellos and for cello and violin, and a piano quintet. His trio, the Weiss-Kaplan-Newman trio, premiered his Juxt-Opposition in October 2010 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. He has been a featured composer on the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Centerís "Double Exposure" series and the Chicago Chamber Musiciansí "Freshly Scored" series, and has received commissions from Astral Artists, the Barnett Foundation, the Carpe Diem String Quartet, and the UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington.

He has performed as soloist throughout the United States, as well as in France, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, and Korea, and he can often be heard on NPRís "Performance Today". Also an avid chamber musician, he is a member of the Chicago Chamber Musicians and the Weiss-Kaplan-Newman trio, and a former member of Chamber Music Society Two of Lincoln Center. He has also toured as a member of "Musicians from Marlboro".

Upon receiving a Master of Music Degree from The Juilliard School, he became one of the few students to complete the five-year exchange program between Juilliard and Columbia University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Mr. Newmanís teachers have included David Gibson, Joel Krosnick and Harvey Shapiro.

Q & A with Clancy Newman

You have been living in the US for many years now but return to Australia each February. Why is that?

When I was a young child growing up in America, I had an Australian accent (my year one teacher called me “Vegemite”) because both of my parents were Australian.  As I grew older, alas, I lost most of that accent.  However, I have always felt very strongly attached to this spectacular country, and many of my happiest childhood memories are from when my family came to visit.  Now, as an adult, I am extremely fortunate to have a career that allows me the flexibility to spend two months a year here.  Although it’s difficult to set aside such a large chunk of time, it’s worth it—I can escape the hectic life of New York City and focus on my composing.  Also, the novelty of cold and snowy winters wore off long ago… I’d much rather be where it’s sunny!

How did you come to play the cello?

My parents and I somewhat differ in our memories of how I came to choose the cello when I was 6.  They claim that they asked me what instrument I wanted to play, and without hesitation I said “The cello!”  My memory is that I said “The drums!” and they responded by gently prodding me in a different direction.

Who or what inspired you to pursue music?

After I agreed to play the cello, my parents set about finding me a teacher.  They asked the conductor of the local youth orchestra, David Gibson, who was a cellist, if he would teach me.  He hesitated, saying that he only taught adults, but finally agreed to try it as an experiment.  He turned out to be the greatest, most inspiring teacher a child could possibly have.  He instilled in me a love of music.  My parents never had to force me to practice.  By the time I was 9, if not earlier, I knew that I was going to be a musician when I grew up.  Mr. Gibson continued to teach me until I went to Juilliard pre-college when I was 17.

What is your favourite piece of music to perform?

Hmmm… a tough question… there are so many pieces I love to play!  There are those that are deep and emotional, like Beethoven’s Opus 132 string quartet or the Shostakovich trio—they are tremendously satisfying to perform.  But then there are also pieces that are lighter and put you in a good mood, like the Mendelssohn Octet or Schoenfield’s Café Music—they’re satisfying in a different way.  But ultimately, I think my favourite piece to play, which has elements of both the above, is the Schubert double cello quintet.

What is your favourite piece to listen to?

As a musician, it’s very difficult for me to turn the “musician” part of my brain off and just enjoy music as it should be enjoyed.  I can’t help analysing every detail of the music as it unfolds.  That being said, I think the piece I enjoy listening to the most is the Faure Requiem.  It’s from such a different genre than the music I typically play; I think that allows me to sit back and just let the beauty of the music wash over me without my brain interfering.  It’s such a sublime piece.

What is your favourite type of ensemble to perform in?

I’ve always believed that chamber music is the highest form of art.  It allows for the possibility of individual expression as well as the larger expression of a group, while at the same time expressing the ideals of one person: the composer.  As a composer, I love writing for string quartet; that combination of instruments provides me with the broadest—yet most personal—palette.  However, as a cellist, I love playing in piano trios because I can play with the freedom of a soloist while still interacting with and being inspired by my colleagues on stage with me.

You are also a composer – how did this passion become part of your life and when?

When I was 7 years old, my dad printed me some “staff paper”—really just a page consisting of five rows of dashes, made to look like staves—and I wrote my first piece, for solo cello (clearly influenced by Suzuki Book I).  I distinctly remember the joy I felt at having written the melody; it was a joy that seemed to touch a part of my soul deeper than any joy I had felt before.  As I grew older, even on into adulthood, that joy remained one of the great constants of my life.

Do you have a preference for certain composers, styles or eras?

There are two equally strong sides to my taste in music:  on the one hand, I am drawn to unrestrained passion, soulfulness, and craziness; on the other, I love mathematics and order.  I’m not sure that these two sides are exclusively the possession of one style or era.  My favourite composer is Bach.  He always gets credit for his mathematical mind, but not enough for the profound emotional impact of his music.

Is there any particular cellist whom you admire?

That’s an easy one: Harvey Shapiro.  He was one of my teachers at Juilliard.  When he demonstrated how to play something during my lessons, it was as if time would stop and all the air would leave the room.  The sound was beyond anything I can possibly put into words.  It was like the whole world shook.  And somewhere, from deep down, his ancient soul would emerge as a force of nature impossible to resist.  He was about 90 years old and had a full life’s worth of love, pain, joy and sorrow… and he could express it all in a single note!

How do you find the Classic Music world in Australia compared to overseas?

I’m not sure I feel ready to answer this question.

What piece of music are you most looking forward to playing in your upcoming performances with Selby&Friends?

Paul Schoenfield’s Café Music.  If one were to claim that the mark of “greatness” in a piece is defined by whether it is still performed and enjoyed hundreds of years after its creation, then I think that Café Music will ultimately come to be regarded as the greatest American piano trio of the twentieth century.  Too often people overlook this masterpiece because it isn’t “serious”; it’s written in a popular idiom and makes little attempt at art for art’s sake.  It’s brilliantly written for all three instruments, and it’s as fun to play as it is to listen to.  I don’t foresee that changing 50 years from now or even 150 years from now!


"Newman...seems to be in a class of his own..."
The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Newman was exceptional...playing with bristling intensity.... a tour de force."
Chicago Classical Review

"The youthful Newman once again proved that he is an exceptional cellist"
The Strad

"Newman played it with an exhilarating energy and a clear sense of its contours." [Ligeti Sonata for Solo Cello]
The New York Times

"It was exhilarating to watch....Newman had no difficulty projecting his aggressive, hardĖedged sound." [Barber Cello concerto]
Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Newman quickly won listenersí hearts, exhibiting both a sensitivity and intensity..."
Chicago Tribune

"Newmanís technical mastery proved entirely dazzling."
San Francisco Chronicle

"Newman reminds me a bit of Joshua Bell. He is a throwback to those golden days when string players were not afraid to express themselves with generous amounts of vibrato."
New York Sun

"Hooray for Clancy Newman. This upstate New York native is one of the most acclaimed young cellists out there"
Philadelphia City Paper

"His technique is brilliant but not showy and so natural that one forgets about it; playing with impeccable intonation and great speed and facility, he projects a sense of absolute security. His tone is dark, warm, and intense, with remarkable carrying power even in a floating pianissimo."
New York Concert Review

"The program opened with [Yael] Weiss and Newman in a charm-exuding performance of Schumannís Fantasiestucke for Cello and Orchestra, Opus 73."

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