Elena Cheah


Professor of Cello at the Freiburg University of Music

AIMS Academy​ O1-13/O8/2O23

  • Individual master classes for cello
  • Audition training
  • Opportunities to perform on stage as a soloist or in chamber groups
  • Selected students will experience the Festival Orchestra

Elena Cheah, American cellist, studied at the Juilliard School and at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music with Boris Pergamenschikow. She has been a guest chamber musician at the Aspen, Ravinia and Bellingham Festivals in the United States, at several prestigious international festivals such as the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, the Rheingau Music Festival, the Zagreb International Chamber Music Festival, the Musicus Fest in Hong Kong and in Australia for tours with the Musica Viva agency. Since 2014 she has been a member of the Hegel Quartet and develops literary programs that the quartet performs with actor Walter Sittler.

In 2001, Elena became the principal cellist of the orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin under Christian Thielemann. Three years later, she left this position to pursue less conventional musical interests such as her brother’s instrumental rock band and the ensemble Trio Grand Cru (2003-2010). Performances with the trio followed at Hamburg’s Laeiszhalle, Berlin’s Philharmonie, the Bar jeder Vernunft in Berlin, and the Köstritzer Zeltfestival in Weimar. In 2005-2006 and 2010-2011 she served as principal cellist of the Staatskapelle Berlin under Daniel Barenboim.

As a guest principal cellist, she has appeared with several renowned ensembles worldwide, including the Concertgebouworkest, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Camerata Bern, the Orchestra of the Tonhalle Zurich, the SWR Symphony Orchestra Freiburg, the Bach Collegium Stuttgart and the Camerata Salzburg.

From 2006 to 2013, Elena was professor of cello at the Barenboim-Said Foundation Academy of Orchestral Studies in Seville, Spain. From 2010 to 2012 she also taught at the Stuttgart University of Music and Performing Arts, and since 2014 she has been Professor of Cello at the Freiburg University of Music.

As a soloist, she has performed with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, the Orquesta Sinfonica de Burgos, the Sinfonietta92 Berlin and the English Chamber Orchestra. She has been a coach and guest teacher with various youth orchestras and festivals, including the Young Euro Classic Festival, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Orquesta Nacional Juvenil de Guatemala and Aldeburgh Music.

As a writer, she assisted Daniel Barenboim in 2007 with the writing of his latest book, “Everything is Connected” (Verso, 2008). In 2009, she published her own book, “An Orchestra Beyond Borders: The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra” (Verso, 2009, also available in German and Italian), based on her experiences as a member and teacher of the Arab-Israeli youth orchestra.

She is currently in training to become a Wayfinder Life Coach and will integrate her coaching practice into her teaching in the future.