July 28, 2020

L.A. Studio Legends #2: Cécilia Tsan

Talented Los Angeles-based cellist talks on her career as studio musician in Hollywood, her friendship with Yo-Yo Ma and her experiences playing for John Williams on many film soundtracks and recordings

Among the studio musicians who are regular members for John Williams's recordings in Los Angeles in the more recent years, cellist Cécilia Tsan is certainly one of the most luminous and talented of that pool. Born in Versailles (France) from Chinese musician parents, Cécilia started to be immersed in music since a very young age, and began playing at the age of five with the same teacher as her childhood friend Yo-Yo Ma, who continues to be a dear friend and a source of inspiration for her.

After graduating in Paris and attending perfecting classes in Italy, Cécilia started to perform regularly across Europe in classical concerts and recitals. In 1991, she moved to Los Angeles and started to work as a freelance musician. In 2001, she began performing as a studio musician for film recordings.

Cécilia has performed in virtually all of John Williams's scores recorded in Los Angeles during the last two decades, including Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, Memoirs of a Geisha, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Adventures of Tintin, War Horse and the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Cécilia was also part of the orchestra hand-picked by Williams which recorded the album Across the Stars, the collaboration between the composer and internationally acclaimed violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter

Besides her intense activity as studio musician, Cécilia continues to devote a lot of time to classical music, playing both as soloist in symphonic repertoire (performing cello standards by Elgar, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and Haydn) and chamber concerts. In 2018, she was invited by Van Cliburn Gold Medal winner Italian pianist Simone Pedroni to perform at the Alagna Music Festival, where they played together the three pieces from Memoirs of a Geisha and the Elegy for cello and piano by John Williams. 

In this conversation, Cécilia Tsan talks with The Legacy of John Williams about her musical career, the incredible story of her family, her friendship with Yo-Yo Ma and her many experiences recording with John Williams as part of his orchestra.

For more information and the full list of music excerpts featured in the episode, visit https://thelegacyofjohnwilliams.com/2020/07/28/cecilia-tsan-podcast/

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