• Born 1931
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Leslie Parnas began his musical study with piano lessons at the age of five and changed to cello at eight. He made his solo debut with the St. Louis Symphony at the age of 14 and became a student of Piatigorsky at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.
He developed his career slowly, but began to emerge from the pack at around the age of 25. He won the Pablo Casals Prize at the International Cello Competition in Paris in 1957. One of the jurors was Sir John Barbirolli, the distinguished conductor, who was also a cellist. Barbirolli recalled that Parnas approached him and said he was interested in learning something about Sir Edward Elgar's cello concerto. This work is so beloved by British audiences and musicians that Barbirolli was unaware that it was practically unknown in America. When Barbirolli realized Parnas had never heard nor seen it, they got a copy and Barbirolli took Parnas through it for tempo and interpretation. "Would you believe that he read it and played it, including all the difficult passages, better than many I have heard to have studied it for years," said Barbirolli.
Parnas made his New York debut in 1959. In 1962 he took a Second Prize in the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Soon he gained an international reputation and was invited by Casals to play at his music festivals in Prades and in Puerto Rico. Parnas became particularly fond of playing in Russia after he took an extended tour there in 1976. He and his wife learned Russian for these tours, and he considers that this has helped bridge the gap between America and that country. He has played with leading orchestras all over the world.
He teaches at Boston University and is a founding member of the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, with which he has frequently recorded.