When George Neikrug first played the Kodály Sonata Op. 8 at Town Hall in New York City in 1947, it had not been performed in the United States for many years. And Neikrug continued to promote it by inclusion in his recitals in both the United States and Europe. Neikrug reports that he always received great reviews when he played it.
The Kodály Op. 8 is also an effective piece to play for an audition. Neikrug relates, “If you play it right, they should have the contract out by the time you finish the first page!” Neikrug goes on to say, “The three movements are played very differently. The first movement played fairly straight and he wrote out the rubatos clearly. The second movement is an approximation of it. . . like one big cadenza. So you are able to play completely free because it is a full improvisation. The last movement of the Kodály is a cluster of Hungarian dances; one big dance and then a couple of little ones.”
For his Suite for Solo Cello - composed in 1926 - Gaspar Cassado turned to a form perfected by Bach. As in Bach's Suites, a Preludio is succeeded by dance movements - only two in this work. Cassado's music combines the austere nobility of his native Spain with the formalism of the Baroque and harmonies that would make Ravel (Cassado's teacher) proud. This music is an important memento of one of the cello's great exponents. It should be noted that it was Cassado’s only unaccompanied work for cello.
The Unaccompanied Sonata for Solo Cello by Marc Neikrug (known as Marc's Sonata) is an important contribution to the cello literature. At the time the sonata was written, Marc was a student at the Detmold Akademie in Germany, where his father was also teaching cello. George asked Marc to compose a one movement sonata, a contemporary version of the Liszt Piano Sonata in B minor and this new work was the result. Both Liszt's Gran Sonata and Marc Neikrug's Cello Sonata require an extremely high degree of technical mastery and artistry on the part of the performer. (Note: After attending George Neikrug's performance at Lincoln Center, the music critic of the New York Times referred to Marc's Sonata as a "stunning piece".)
Mr. Neikrug, a consummate cello virtuoso, is considered by many of his colleagues to be the greatest living string pedagogue. Born in New York, George Neikrug was a pupil of the legendary Emanuel Feuermann and is probably the only remaining student who is still concertizing. In 1943, he met the well-known pedagogue D.C. Dounis, whose revolutionary approach to the problems of string playing and teaching influenced him to completely revamp his playing and create the unique style he has retained to this day. This association lasted for a period of fifteen years, and Neikrug felt such a debt to Dounis for all the knowledge and skills he had learned that he resolved to devote his life to teaching at schools, such as Boston University, and giving master classes all over the world.
Since Neikrug's New York debut in 1947, he has held principal positions with the Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras. He was also principal cellist of the Paramount Pictures Recording Orchestra and the Columbia Recording Orchestra, which recorded the historic series of performances by Igor Stravinsky and Bruno Walter, who called Neikrug a "genuine musician and a real virtuoso of the cello."
In 1960, Leopold Stokowski asked Neikrug to perform Bloch's Schelomo with him and the NBC Symphony at Carnegie Hall, with a recording for United Artists to follow. After this performance, Stokowski sent him an autographed photo with the inscription "for George Neikrug's Schelomo -- unforgettable." In 1979, Neikrug performed all six Bach solo suites in one concert at Lincoln Center. In an enthusiastic review of this concert, John Rockwell of The New York Times concluded, "there was a beauty that was almost painful. We wish Mr. Neikrug would play all the violin suites for us."
Mr. Neikrug has appeared as a soloist with such conductors as Leonard Bernstein, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Bruno Walter, Leopold Stokowski and Yehudi Menuhin, who stated, "I was most impressed with his profound and accurate understanding of his instrument, as well as string playing in general. He is a first-rate musician, and I cannot recommend him too highly." His recording of Bloch's "Schelomo" with Leopold Stokowski and the Symphony of the Air was recently re-released on the EMI label. In addition, Sony has recently released his recording of a duet by Mozart for cello, baritone and orchestra with George London, baritone, and the Columbia Symphony, conducted by Bruno Walter.
In 1962, Mr. Neikrug accepted a teaching position at the Hochschüle in Frankfurt, Germany, as a Fulbright Professor sponsored by Ernst Toch and Bruno Walter. He has held teaching positions at the Detmold Hochschule in Germany, Oberlin College, and the University of Texas at Austin before joining the faculty at Boston University School for the Arts in 1971. He was selected to receive the 1995 "Artist Teacher Award" from the American String Teachers Association. In 1996, he was invited by Janos Starker and the University of Indiana to receive the "Chevalier du Violoncelle" award for outstanding lifetime achievement on the cello. Many of his students are in major symphony orchestras all over the world, including some in principal positions and teaching at major universities.