In 1939 Nelsova returned to Canada where she was principal cello 1940-3 with the TSO and a member 1941-4 of a second Canadian Trio, this time with Kathleen Parlow and Sir Ernest MacMillan. During the early 1940s she taught at the TCM. She made her New York debut at Town Hall in 1942. In 1949 Ernest Bloch invited her to play Schelomo at a festival of his works in London; she later recorded the work under Bloch's baton. In 1954 she spent two months performing in Israel and made a 27-day tour of Alaska and the Canadian Northwest Territories. In 1966 she became the first North American cellist to tour the Soviet Union.
Nelsova performed extensively in concert and recital throughout North and South America and in Europe and appeared at several music festivals (including Aspen, Bergen, Casals, Prague, Tanglewood, Vancouver International, and Expo 67). She appeared as soloist with more than 30 orchestras including the BBC Orchestra, the Montreal Women's Symphony Orchestra, the MSO, the NACO, the TSO, the Boston, London, Vancouver, and Winnipeg symphony orchestras, the Berlin, London, and New York philharmonic orchestras, and the Orchestre de la Suisse romande. Until at least 1990 she maintained her schedule of up to 80 performances a year, then largely gave up performing in 1997 to concentrate on teaching.
With the BBC Orchestra Nelsova gave the first European performance (1950) of Barber's Cello Concerto and later recorded the work with the composer and the New Symphony Orchestra. She premiered Hindemith's A Frog He Went A-Courting in London in 1947, Alexander Brott's Arabesque (version for cello and orchestra) in Montreal in 1958, Alexei Haieff's Cello Sonata in 1963, and Hugh Wood's Cello Concerto (at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Colin Davis) in 1969. The Haieff sonata was commissioned by Nelsova with a grant from the Ford Foundation. In 1972 she gave the US premiere of Robert Casadesus' Sonata. In 1955 in London (Wigmore Hall) and New York (Town Hall) she gave series of recitals of works for cello alone, the programs ranging from Bach to Kodály, Prokofiev, and Reger. She also played for President Richard Nixon at the US White House.
Nelsova appeared on CBC TV and was heard over CBC radio many times: in the five Beethoven sonatas with Lubka Kolessa and Ross Pratt 1942-3 and in various programs for 'Distinguished Artists' 1945-6, 'L'Heure du concert' ca 1954-5, 'Recital' 1959-62, 'University Celebrity Recital' (October 1964), 'Centenary Concerts' (July 1967), and 'Music' (July 1968). She was the soloist for the London concert by the NACO during its 1973 European tour, and in 1987 was one of the 'stars' of the RCMT centennial celebration concert in Roy Thomson Hall.
The US pianist Grant Johannesen (her husband 1963-73) was her partner in many recitals. During the 1970-1 season the couple appeared at Town Hall in Toronto as part of James Norcop's Canadian Platform series. In May 1976 they toured Canada as soloists with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and premiered, as dedicatees, Robert Turner's Capriccio concertante.
Writing in the Toronto Telegram (23 Mar 1966) after a performance of Bloch's Schelomo by Nelsova and the TS, Kenneth Winters described Nelsova as 'a player of magnificent presence, grand verve, consummate skill and unflagging strength ... Of (Schelomo's) longueurs she made a rhapsody; of its bombast, she made drama; of its sentiment she made warm, quiet lyricism.'
Nelsova taught at the Juilliard School 1962-2002, and also at Rutgers University. Her pupils included Lotte Brott and Denis Brott, and many other cellists who in turn became teachers. She also gave many master classes (eg, at the RCMT in 1986, the Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts in 1990, the Piatigorsky Seminar in 1995, the World Cello Congress in 2000, and regularly at London's RAM).
Among the instruments Nelsova played were a 1726 Stradivarius and a 1735 Pietro Guarnerius. She received the Centennial Medal and the Jubilee Medal from her homeland.
Author S. Roy Maley, Betty Nygaard King
Bach - Kodály - Reger. (1956). Lon LLP-1252
Barber Concerto, Opus 22. New SO, Barber conductor. 1951. Lon LPS-332
Beethoven Bagatelles, Sonatas and Trios. Gould piano, Schneider violin. (1954) 1997. CBC PSCD 2013
Beethoven Sonata, Opus 69; Variations, Opus 66. Balsam piano. (1957). 3-Lon LL-52/3-Lon A-4328
Beethoven - Debussy - Brahms. Johannesen piano. 1968. CBC SM-51
Beethoven - Debussy - Debussy - Chopin. Johannesen piano. 2000. CBC PSCD 2018
Bloch From Jewish Life. Bloch piano. (1950). Lon LPS-298
- Schelomo. London Phil, Bloch conductor. 1949. Lon LPS-138/Everest SDBR-3284
- Schelomo. Utah SO, Abravanel conductor. 1967. Vancouver VCS-10007
- Schelomo; Voice in the Wilderness. London Phil, Ansermet conductor. (1955). Lon LL-1232/Everest SDBR-3284
Brahms Sonata, Opus 99. Newmark piano. 1952. RCI 72
A. Brott Arabesque. McGill Chamb O, A. Brott conductor. 1963. RCI 187/7-ACM 20
Chopin Sonata, Opus 65. Johannesen piano. 1968. CBC SM-52
Chopin - Franck - Poulenc - Rachmaninoff: Sonatas. Johannesen piano. (1969). 2-Golden Crest CRS-40899
Dvořák Concerto, Opus 104. London SO, Krips conductor. (1952). Lon LLP-537
- Concerto, Opus 104; Rondo, Opus 94; Waldesruhe, Opus 68. St Louis SO, Susskind conductor. (1976). 3-Vox QSVBX-5135/MMG MWCD-7131 (CD)
- Concerto, Opus 104. Berlin RIAS SO, Jochum conductor. 1950. I Grandi Concerti 31
Falla-Piatgorsky Ritual Fire Dance - Moore Prelude, Opus. 23. Parry piano. Decca K-2088 (78)
Frederick the Great Sonata - Schubert Arpeggione Sonata. Newmark piano. 1951. RCI 34
Hindemith Sonata, Opus 11. Newmark piano. ca 1963. RCI 197
Hindemith - Casadesus: Sonatas for Cello and Piano. Johannesen piano. (1973). Golden Crest CRS-4099
Lalo - Saint-Saëns: Concertos. London Phil, Boult conductor. (1954). Lon LLP-964
Morawetz Memorial to Martin Luther King. CBC Montreal Orch, Mueller conductor. (1975). RCI 213a/RCI 601/6-ACM 16
Rachmaninoff Sonata, Opus 19. Balsam piano. (1956). Lon LLP-1480/Decca Eclipse ECS-706
Uscher, Nancy. 'Zara Nelsova and Ernest Bloch: the story of a friendship and musical partnership,' Strings, vol 2, Spring 1988
Campbell, Margaret, 'Independent achievement,' Strad, vol 99, Jul 1988
Todd, Richard. "Disastrous concert brings tears of grief," Ottawa Citizen, 20 Feb 1997
Janof, Tim. "Conversation with Zara Nelsova," www.cello.org/Newsletter/Articles/nelsova, June 2000
"Zara Nelsova, 84, cellist who worked with Bloch, dies," New York Times, 18 Oct 2002
New Grove Dictionary
Links to Other Sites
Zara Nelsova: Interview
An interview with the celebrated Canadian cellist Zara Nelsova. From the Internet Cello Society website.
Zara Nelsova: Obituary
An obituary for cellist Zara Nelsova. From the Internet Cello Society website.