Dvorak: Cello Concerto Op. 104 – Richard Hirschl, cello
Dvorak: Symphony No. 9
Richard Hirschl became an artist because of a whole-family commitment to music. His father, Richard Sr., was a fine amateur cellist. His mother, Rosemary, was a church organist and a music educator. His sister, Ann, also became a professional violinist. The family would play chamber music together, and often performed at church worship services.
Richard was raised in Washington, Missouri, a small town on the Missouri River west of St. Louis. Growing up, Richard’s earliest passion was motorcycling, so his father harnessed that interest by promising him a motorcycle for his tenth birthday if he completed his cello study books by his birthday in April. When that was accomplished, Richard was allowed to ride his motorcycle in proportion to the number of hours he practiced his cello daily.
As time went by, Richard was further motivated as a cellist by joining the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra and lessons with St. Louis Symphony Orchestra cellist Savely Schuster. Before embarking on his first summer music camp in New York at the Castleman Quartet Program at the age sixteen, Mr. Schuster arranged for Richard to play for his friend, the eminent cellist, Leonard Rose at his home in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. Much to the surprise of the Hirschl family, Mr. Rose invited Richard to study with him at The Juilliard School in New York City for the approaching school year.
Moving from rural Missouri to New York City was a shocking proposal for a boy halfway through high school. Perhaps because it was so startling, but mostly because of the invitation of such a towering and admired musician, Richard enthusiastically embraced the opportunity. The Hirschls enrolled him at the Pre-College Division at Juilliard and arranged for him to live at a boarding school in Tarrytown, the Hackley School. Richard blossomed under the extraordinary guidance of Mr. Rose and his assistant, Channing Robbins.
As a student at Juilliard, Richard won the annual school concerto competition. As a result, he played the Barber Cello Concerto with the Juilliard Orchestra under the direction of Stanislaw Skrowascewski in Avery Fischer Hall. During that time, he was also a prize winner in the Irving M. Klein International Competition in San Francisco. He also toured South America as a soloist and played the Milhaud Cello Concerto with the Jupiter Symphony in Alice Tully Hall. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1987 and a master’s degree in 1988 from Juilliard, Richard successfully auditioned for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1989. He was hired by Sir Georg Solti, and has been a member of the orchestra since that time.
In addition to his great enjoyment of the orchestral literature and life in the orchestra, Richard is also deeply committed to teaching young cellists. Teaching lessons began as a hobby and blossomed into a full-fledged passion. Two of his current Chicago Symphony Orchestra colleagues are former students of his, and many other of the hundreds of students he has taught are now esteemed and highly successful professional musicians.
Mr. Hirschl plays a cello made in 1710 by the Venetian luthier Matteo Goffriller and a cello made in 2014 by the Chicago luthier William Whedbee.
He and his wife Laura make their home in a downtown high-rise where they are the proud parents of Ava Clare and Vivian Rose Hirschl. Continuing in the tradition initiated in Richard’s youth, Richard, Laura, Ava, and Vivian play chamber music together and have performed in worship services at their church, The Orchard in Arlington Heights. Richard and Laura also enjoy motorcycling together.
This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.