Obiturary: Nelson Cooke 1919–2018

The LSO is sad to hear of the death of former Principal Cello Nelson Cooke on Wednesday 7 February 2018. He was 98 years old. 

Born in New South Wales, Australia, Nelson Cooke took up the cello at the age of eight. After service in the Second World War interrupted his early career with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Nelson travelled to London in the 1950s for lessons with Pau Casals, and first played in the Philharmonia before winning the Principal Cello job with the LSO in 1963, leaving in 1968. He later also held the same position with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Moving back to Australia, Nelson took the posts of Head of Strings at the Canberra School of Music and Fellow at the Melbourne Conservatoire of Music, becoming Australia's leading cello pedagogue and training generations of cellists. He founded the Riverina Summer School in 1988 in order to provide a fully-immersive string experience for students of all ages and abilities in a regional Australian setting. His contribution to the cultural life of Australia was recognized in 2011 when he was honoured with The Order of Australia AM, one of the highest awards that an Australian citizen can receive. His life story was revealed in a book Beyond the Bow in 2013.

Nelson retired from playing the cello at the age of 90, and the LSO cello section was honoured to meet him in person after a concert at the Melbourne Arts Centre during our tour of Australia in November 2014.

B3h1X3WCEAEp9xpThe LSO cello section with Nelson Cooke at the Melbourne Arts Centre in 2014. L–R Deborah Tolksdorf, Noel Bradshaw, Jennie Brown, Dan Gardner, Tim Hugh, Nelson Cooke, Eve-Marie Caravassilis, Hilary Jones, Amanda Truelove, Morwenna Del Mar, Alastair Blayden 

Nelson's partner Anna writes, 'Nelson has left behind his two sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, not to mention nieces and nephews who were part of his extended family. He did not want a funeral and he has donated his body for medical research. A memorial celebration with his family and friends will be held sometime in the coming weeks.' We extend our condolences to his family and friends at this sad time.

Nelson Ripley Cooke
21 December 1919 – 7 February 2018

(Top photo: National Library of Australia)