"she produces an astonishing range of colours and evokes the widest variety of expressive styles"
"Magically deft, soaringly passionate, without any trace of self-indulgence, Clein conjures a full orchestra of colours and textures from her precious Guadagnini cello"
"Natalie Clein fearlessly goes where others have feared to tread for a generation, living each and every phrase with a poetic intensity and emotional immediacy that captures the moment to perfection"
Classic FM Magazine
British cellist Natalie Clein has built a distinguished career, regularly performing at major venues and with orchestras worldwide. Her playing has been praised for its “astonishing range of colours and ... wide variety of expressive styles” (Gramophone Magazine).
She records regularly for Hyperion, and has recorded the two Cello Concertos by Camille Saint-Saëns as well as Bloch’s Schelomo and Bruch’s Kol Nidrei with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra to great critical acclaim. A solo disc with works by Bloch, Ligeti and Dallapiccola was released on 27 Janaury 2017. She has previously released 3 discs for EMI.
Her performances have taken Natalie Clein to orchestras including the Philharmonia, Hallé, Bournemouth Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Montreal Symphony, Orchestre National de Lyon, New Zealand Symphony and Orquesta Filarmónica de Buenos Aires. She has performed with conductors including Sir Mark Elder, Sir Roger Norrington, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Leonard Slatkin, Stéphane Denève and Heinrich Schiff.
A keen recital and chamber performer, she has recently performed Bach’s Complete Cello Suites in London, Southampton and Oxford; and has curated a series of four concerts for BBC Radio 3 at LSO St Luke’s. She is the proud artistic director of her own chamber music festival in Purbeck, Dorset.
She regularly works with contemporary composers such as Thomas Larcher, Brian Elias and Dobrinka Tabakova and has also curated and been involved in cross-disciplinary projects with the dancer Carlos Acosta, writer Jeanette Winterson and director Deborah Warner amongst others.
In 2015, Natalie Clein was appointed Artist in Residence and Director of Musical Performance at Oxford University for 4 years. She will curate a concert series in the context of this position.
This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.
Cello Unwrapped: Solo Bach, Bloch and Kurtág
Kings Place, November 2017
This was a clever programme. [...] Just as this music [Kurtág's Signs, Games and Messages] needs to be carefully weighed and measured, so Clein applied the same balance to the mesmeric sarabande of Bach’s Suite No 5, in so doing deftly cutting across the centuries between the German baroque icon and a Hungarian modernist master. [...] Clein’s rich tone and generous legato [...] she didn’t put a foot wrong in the Fifth, grandly unwinding the twisty prélude, supplying two meaty gavottes, and, with understated elegance, coming to a halt in a spry, genteel gigue.
Neil Fisher, The Times
Tre Voci; Cello Unwrapped at Kings Place, London
Kings Place’s year-long exploration of the cello has been full of surprises, which have not so much ‘unwrapped’ as re-invented the instrument. That requires a certain kind of player, who’s happy not to be centre-stage all the time, and is eager to shake up the normal concert format.
Natalie Clein is just such a cellist. In last night’s concert she reinvented the cello as a wordless voice, singing rapturously alongside mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron [...] Clein’s cello spun a rapturous counterpoint. Rapture was a mood struck often during the evening. It was there in the 2nd of Michael Berkeley’s Three Rilke Sonnets, where voice and cello [...] mirrored the tender feeling of loss in the poem. The ending, where cello and voice seemed to resist the urge to meet on the same note, and then finally yielded to it, was the most intense moment of the evening. No less moving were the three songs by John Tavener for voice and cello, [...] and Tavener’s solo cello piece Threnos. To succeed these pieces need a beautifully sustained line and hair-line accuracy of tuning, and the performers gave us both.
But it wasn’t all mystical rapture. In Janáček’s Fairytale Clein found an engaging tone of naïve simplicity, and in a movement from a Bach Cantata she showed that the humble role of playing a cheerfully jazz-like ‘walking bass’ can also be eloquent, in its own way.
Ivan Hewett, Kings Place
Clein’s immersion in the Romantic and rhetorical arguments was apparent: her cello quite literally ‘sang’, the sound beautifully fresh and bright, the extended span of the phrases shaped with naturalness. The differentiation of the weight she applied to the bow stroke over different registers was both astonishingly detailed and obviously instinctive and unmannered. Clein’s playing is quite ‘introspective’: that’s not to suggest that she does not communicate – the tone is often searing and intense – but her sound is quite restrained, and she relishes the small details. In a venue of the dimensions of Kings Place, such nuances register tellingly.
Claire Seymour, Seen and Heard International
Perm, May 2017
Natalie Clein played expressively and sweepingly, not constraining herself in movements, completely absorbed in the music she performed, and she transmitted her interest to the listeners [...] Clein clearly could draw listeners into this new world.
Irina Makalovskaya, Diaghilev Festival Press Service
Located on opposite sides of the hall in the House of Diaghilev, each of the musicians defended their region and their manner of performance. The restrained, smooth sound of Baroque cello [from] Cocset was answered in a romantic, sensual and open execution by Clein.
Polina Dorozhkova, Diaghilev Festival Press Service
Bloch, Ligeti & Dallapiccola: Suites for solo cello
Hyperion CD 68155
A wonderful and compelling recording by Natalie Clein demonstrating the art of cello-playing at its most intimate – physical, lyrical and beautifully recorded
Martin Cullingford, Editor's Choice, Gramophone
Cellist Natalie Clein keeps the expressive range within autumnal parameters: melancholy, lightly fretful, inward and dignified. [...] Clein plays intimately, as if for herself alone. But there is nothing hermetic about her approach. Gently, insistently, quietly, she draws the listener into Bloch’s music and the results are thoroughly absorbing. [...] Clein is every bit as commanding in the formidably difficult Dallapiccola as she is retiring in the Bloch, and her performance of the Adagio theme in the Ligeti is four minutes of pure, concentrated beauty. This lovely disc reveals the cello as a kind of private sketch pad, or journal, capturing big emotions on a small scale, with a poetic concentration in sharp contrast to the larger, more furious musical gestures of the post-war moment.
Philip Kennicott, Gramophone
Clein is full of conviction in all of it, with fearless attack and haunting quiet passages.
Kate Molleson, The Guardian
For Ernest Bloch, at the end of his life, the three Suites for solo cello recall Bach in their mix of lyricism and declamation, wholeheartedly conveyed by Clein. From other quarters Luigi Dallapiccola’s Ciaccona, intermezzo e adagio, written in 1945, is riven with a hard-edged desolation. The young Ligeti’s Sonata for solo cello, from 1948/53, looks ahead optimistically with beauty and ebullience.
Richard Fairman, Financial Times ****
Expressive, and impressive, solo programme from the British cellist [...] These are meticulous and carefully cultivated performances [of Bloch’s Cello Suites], captured with an intimacy of recorded sound that matches the private interior world Clein is hearing. The tenebrous contours of the Andante tranquillo second movement of Suite no.2 have been internalised and we witness a deep communion between player and composer; and I’m much admiring of the uncountable rhythmic nuances she lends the opening movement, Allegro deciso, of Suite no.3, where she skids notes across the pulse [...] Dallapiccola’s Ciaccona, Intermezzo e Adagio affords her the opportunity to dig deep inside her impressive arsenal of technique. Nervy fragments of melody spill out of Clein’s fulsomely balanced block chords at the start – this proves a daredevil performance.
Philip Clark, The Strad
UK tour with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra
Natalie Clein’s riveting account of Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto, a masterly performance characterised by understatement, aphorism and style.
Michael Tumelty, The Herald ****
It’s a special thing to have Shostakovich’s caustic first cello concerto played with uncommon lyricism by the marvellous Natalie Clein, who brought an unusual sense of smoothness to the outer movements, with an unsettling keening sound to the lament of the second movement. The cadenza was extraordinary, Clein playing as though the cello was an extension of her own body, and almost as arresting was the ghostly sound she achieved at the very top of her register at the end of the Moderato.
Simon Thompson, Seen and Heard International
Bach Cello Suites at St George’s, Bristol
Natalie Clein played the first three of the solo cello suites and, as the opening prelude of the G major suite unfolded, the Bach spell was cast anew. Clein treated the music in heightened conversational fashion, articulating the component voices and their different inflections, creating a sense of continuing narrative.
Rian Evans, The Guardian
Three Choirs Festival 2015 with pianist Håvard Gimse
Holy Trinity Church, Hereford
Natalie Clein is famous for her warmth of tone, and the audience at Hereford’s Holy Trinity church were not let down in this respect. She exudes confidence and flair.
Spencer Allman, Hereford Times
Music at Paxton with Håvard Gimse
Paxton House, July 2015
Debussy’s Sonata in its centenary year was spilling over with expression from Clein [...] Her robust, full-on sound brought warm immediacy and deep colour to Debussy’s lyrical lines [...] Clein’s playing was heart-wrenching in Rachmaninov’s G minor Sonata, sensual in the sumptuousness of its lush romance.
Carol Main, The Scotsman ****
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Benevolent Concert
The Lighthouse, Poole in May 2015
Natalie Clein's performance was spine tingling. Her interpretations of the music's contours and nuances were utterly magical as she demonstrated the incredible range and emotional beauty of her instrument.Her seamless partnership with the BSO and clear enjoyment were a joy to behold.
Stephanie Hall, Bournemouth Daily Echo
Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 1 with the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra
Usher Hall, Edinburgh in February 2015
featured soloist Natalie Clein worked wonders to boost energy levels before the interval with a virtuosic, highly expressive rendition of the Saint-Saëns
Martin Kershaw, heraldscotland online
Singapore National Youth Orchestra / Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor
Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore in November 2014
Anyone who has heard her stunning CD recording of Camille Saint-Saens's two cello concertos will attest that she is even more impressive in live performance [...] In SSaint-Saëns's First Cello Concerto In A minor, the tone she coaxed from her 1777 "Simpson" Guadagnini was rich and full-bodied, immediately putting her mark on the single-movement work performed without breaks. The virtuosic and fast hairpin turns encountered at the beginning and close of the concerto were met with lightning reflexes, requisite of this showpiece, a testament to her finely-honed technique. Even in the quieter bits, her playing was always transcendent and unfailingly beautiful.
Chang Tou Liang, The Straits Times
World Premiere of Tavener’s Flood of Beauty
September 2014, Barbican, London
An extended cello solo separated each of these five cycles, and without doubt these meditative passages, played exquisitely by Natalie Clein, provided the highlight of the piece. The slow-moving rhapsodising, beginning in the highest register and gradually descending to the lowest, [...] provided blissful relief and refreshment from the overwhelming sound of the poem’s setting.
David Fay, Bach Track
... the cello solos that end each of the five cycles [were] beautifully played by Clein.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian
... the soloists [...] pitted themselves tirelessly against the combined Britten Sinfonia, Britten Sinfonia Voices and New London Chamber Choir.
John Allison, The Daily Telegraph
Moscow Philharmonic / Yuri Simonov, Yuri Botnari / Shostakovich Cello Concerto No.1
May 2014 Tour
Interspersed was Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto, delivered with unremitting energy and impassioned line-unfolding by soloist Natalie Clein.
Clein, for all her young age still, is becoming the elder stateswoman of the cello, much as Mitsuko Uchida has become of the piano. I approve wholeheartedly. She has such a strength of tone, such bowing dexterity, such insight into whatever she is interpreting. Her Elgar is very special; I must hear her in Dvorak again soon.
soloist Natalie Clein immersed herself completely in the emotional fabric of this evocative work. Clein’s winning technique and approach that was both fierce and tender, made for a searingly beautiful performance.
Natalie Clein entered on the thrilling roller-coaster ride with relish, plunging into the depths of despair one moment and exploding with dance-like, manic energy the next.
Saint-Saëns (Cello Concertos Nos 1 & 2 and other works by Saint-Saëns)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Manze/Antje Weithaas (violin) (Hyperion CD 68002)
It is the light airiness of Natalie Clein's approach that works so well here [...] she finds a golden timbre and fleet elegance [...] This is as close as you'll get to musical champagne; I've a feeling Saint-Saëns would have approved [...] Clein conjures magic [...] Clein's disc comes highly recommended.
Helen Wallace, BBC Music Magazine **** Concerto Choice
...this Hyperion programme has much going for it, not least in that it features the mature, sensitive artistry of Natalie Clein [...] In La muse et le poète Clein is in intimate conversation with violinist Antje Weithaas, and the shorter pieces testify both to her lissom technique and to her lyrical allure.
Geoffrey Norris, Gramophone
Hyperion’s Romantic Cello Concerto series reaches its fifth release with this adventurous programme devoted to music by Saint-Saëns. These, from Natalie Clein and the BBC Scottish Orchestra on top form, are certainly memorable crisp and nicely nuanced performances and are comparable with the best.
Ian Lace, Musicweb International
The Saint-Saëns CD is full of beautiful performances. There is a real sense of chamber music playing throughout, which is part of Clein’s conception of the composer’s First Concerto.
Ariane Todes, Sinfini Music
A new recording by Natalie Clein is always an event [...] and this one finds her on top form. [...] this is exciting stuff with a real sense of happening [...] Her C-string melody [...] is followed by the sweetest ascending harmonic scale I have ever heard [...] The beauty and freedom of Clein’s playing in the first movement’s three solo episodes and in the poignant Andante sostenuto is matched by her technical confidence and strong tone. The Allegro appassionato is dazzlingly thrown off.
Janet Banks, The Strad
This is a first-class recording, the fifth in Hyperion’s series of Romantic cello concertos. Anybody wanting both Saint-Saëns’s Cello Concertos and La muse et le poète really doesn’t need to look any further. Natalie Clein is a comprehensively gifted player who performs these pieces with an ideal combination of warm-hearted expressiveness and astonishing technical ability. [...] Clein plays it [the Second Cello Concerto] with all the requisite vigour and virtuosity and Manze and his orchestra are outstanding partners. [...] The Performance [of Saint-Saëns’s double concerto for violin, cello and orchestra] by Antje Weithaas and Clein is just about ideal.
Nigel Simeone, International Record Review
Contemporary British cello virtuoso Natalie Clein traverses the music of Saint-Saens with easy aplomb and lyrical freshness.
Gary Lemco, Audiophile Audition ****
British cellist Natalie Clein, a former BBC Young Musician of the Year, crafts a gorgeous tone above all the surface glitz and display [...] Clein is joined by German violinist Antje Weithaas in The Muse and the Poet (1910), a lovely double concerto in all but name. Here, both instruments resonate as one sublime whole.
Chang Tou Liang, The Straits Times *****
Wigmore Hall, Beethoven & Britten - with Alasdair Beatson
She is a graceful, lyrical player with a sound like a fine-spun silver thread. Yet I was both impressed and emotionally moved by her playing of [Britten's] third suite. Clein was alert to every passing nuance.
Richard Morrison, The Times****
Clein really made the cello sing [...] Clein and Beatson were as-one in their interpretation.
Ben Hogwood, Classical Source
Bloch & Bruch works for Cello & Orchestra
BBC Scottish Symphony / Ilan Volkov, Hyperion CDA67910
Natalie Clein encompasses all the work’s varied character and demands while retaining an air of polish in her playing. Her chords in the vigorous, energetic third section, for example, remain full and rounded, without appearing over careful. The Bruch, too, receives a lovely performance, with Clein bringing out the different colour of each of the cello’s strings and the orchestra effecting most beautifully the transition from sombre to heavenly.
Duncan Druce, Gramophone, September 2012
A breathtakingly beautiful dialogue between Natalie Clein & the BBC Scottish Symphony conducted by Ilan Volkov. Clein manages to explore the profound depths of [Bloch's Schelomo] and all its vocal expressivity without exaggeration or hyperbole and the orchestra's response feels minted in the moment rather than pre-planned. I'm not sure I've heard a more convincing modern account on disc. An immaculate recording
Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 CD Review, 04 August 2012
Natalie Clein gives an unexaggerated performance pursuing the music's linearity and playing from the heart while conjuring some appropriate dark tone from her instrument. It's one of the most persuasive performances of [Schelomo] that I have heard. Throughout, the recording is as vivid as the music. An outstanding release.
Colin Anderson, International Record Review, 11 July 2012
You cannot wish to hear a clearer, lovelier investigation of Bloch’s Jewish decade.
Norman Lebrecht, La Scena Musicale, 15 July 2012
Philharmonic Hall Liverpool, Elgar: Cello Concerto
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain / Paul Daniels, 5 January 2012
Natalie Clein was the declamatory yet lyrical soloist in the Elgar, a performance that was admirably unsentimental.
Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 06 January 2012
Kodaly works for Cello & Piano
Hyperion Records CDA67829
she produces an astonishing range of colours and evokes the widest variety of expressive styles. I find it admirable, too, how she's able, in the recording studio, to maintain so much of the excitement and directness of live performance. Music of this rhetorical character demands a fine sense of timing; Clein demonstrates this
Duncan Druce, Gramophone Magazine. 'Editor's Choice' August 2010
Magically deft, soaringly passionate, without any trace of self-indulgence, Clein conjures a full orchestra of colours and textures from her precious Guadagnini cello.
Geoff Brown, The Times, 12 June 2010
…extremely impressive, both in the impassioned rhapsodies of the first two movements, and in the array of folk tunes that are paraded in the ferociously challenging finale.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 27 May 2010
Zoltan Kodály’s Sonata for solo Cello represents one of those daunting summits that cellists feel ineluctably drawn to conquer, and Natalie Clein does so here with terrific passion, piquancy and technical accomplishment.
Geoffrey Norris, The Telegraph, 25 June 2010
Clein goes between and behind the notes to reveal a multi-layered sound world of unsettling semantic complexity. In her expert hands, Kodaly's approximations of fife, clarinet and cimbalom come startlingly to life, making the explosive music that surrounds them feel all the more intimidating.
Natalie Clein’s Repertoire List
Solo Suites No.1 - 6
Cello Concerto Op.22
Cello Sonata No.3 in A major Op.69
Cello Concerto in G major G.480
Double Concerto in A minor Op.102
Symphony for Cello & Orchestra Op.68
Kol Nidrei Op.47
Cello Concerto in B minor Op.104
Cello Concerto in E minor Op.85
Violin Sonata (transcr. for cello and piano)
Canticle of the Sun
Cello Concerto Op.67
Concerto in C Major Hob.VIIb:1
Cello Concerto in D minor
Variations on a Slovak folksong
Several trios and quartets
Concerto Grosso No.1 for 3 Cellos & Orchestra
Sinfonia Concertante Op.125
Sonata in G Minor Op.19
Adagio con Variazioni for Cello & Orchestra
Cello Concerto No.1 in A minor Op.33
Cello Concerto in A minor Op.129
Cello Concerto No.1 in E flat major Op.107
Flood of Beauty
Variations on a Roccoco Theme Op.33 (original version)
Two Early Pieces (1899)