Born in Chicago, Illinois, Paul Olefsky was the son of prominent Russian immigrant musicians, Maxim and Rita Olefsky. His formative studies were with Johan Lingeman and Daniel Saidenberg in Chicago. His further studies were with Pablo Casals in France; Herbert Von Karajan at the Mozarteum; and Pierre Monteux. He matriculated from the classes of legendary greats Feuermann, Piatigorsky,Primrose, and graduated from the Curtis Institute in 1947. Mr. Olefsky won the first prize of the prestigious Naumburg International Solo Competition in 1948, and he was awarded the first prize of the Michaels MemorialInternational Solo Competition in 1953 over a field of artists that included famed pianist, Van Cliburn.
Applauded by leading music critics worldwide, Mr. Olefsky performed as a cellist and conductor on five continents in major music centers during the course of his distinguished career. Mr. Olefsky was an Emeritus Professor of Music from the Butler School of Music,University of Texas at Austin. The United States Government awarded Mr. Olefsky the Civilian Service Award for a ten-month USO sponsored armed forces tour in WWII.
As the youngest principal cellist in the history of the Philadelphia Orchestra, he appeared as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Carnegie Hall with EugeneOrmandy, introducing the premier performance of the Virgil Thomson Cello Concerto; Kleinsinger Concerto with the Symphony Orchestra of America (Korn), Detroit Symphony (Paray); Chicago Symphony; Oxford, England Pro Musica; English Chamber Orchestra; OsloPhilharmonic (Kondrashin); Bombay, and India Orchestra to name a few. His international broadcast credits include: USA-ABC; CBS; NBC; Voice of America; England (BBC); Radio Brazil (Villa-Lobos Festival); Radio Salzburg, Austria; Radio People’s Republic of China; Radio India; Hong Kong Radio; Taiwan Radio; and NHK Japan. The Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund for music sponsored his solo European tour.
Mr. Olefsky appeared numerous times as soloist in Carnegie Hall, Library of Congress, and Lincoln Center as conductor/cellist; as well as at London’s Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room; Vienna’s Beethoven Saal and Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. He served on the jury panels of the Piatigorsky International Competition (Violoncello Society of New York), and Interlochen International Competition (General Motor & Seventeen Magazine). He collaboratedand appeared in premier performances with such composers as Ginastera, Gonzalez, Kodaly, Milhaud, Shapleigh, Tcherepnin, Thomson, and Welcher. He was the director of the Casals Festival in Zermatt, Switzerland and invited noted Ecuadorian/Austin pianist Alegria Arce as one of the featured artists; the Oxford Pro Musica Festival, England; Mozart Festival of Washington D.C.; Milhaud Festival; Amatius International Music Festival, and the Amatius Chamber Music Series at the Dell Campus in Austin.
Among his other highlights, he appeared as a soloist in Viola Da Gamba performances with the National Symphony at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC and Baltimore in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. He also performed solo gamba concerts for the American Society of Ancient Instruments. He was invited to join informal chamber music concerts with Jascha Heifetz, Mischa Mischakoff and Ernst Walfisch. His Brahms Double Concerto appearances were with Schmuel Ashkenasi, Gabriel Banat, Stuart Canin, Mischa Mischakoff, and Leonard Posner.
Mr. Olefsky's renowned recordings include six concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra as conductor/cellist for Amatius Classics along with his concert cellist wife Hai Zheng; the Amatius Orchestra of New York; cycles by Beethoven, Brahms, Grieg, Kreisler (with pianist Alegria Arce) and Schubert (with pianist Walter Hautzig), Kodalyand Rachmaninov (with pianist John Perry); Boccherini,Tcherepnin; Tchaikovsky; and Vivaldi on the labels of Amatius Classics; Americus Record, Monitor; Musical Heritage Society; Voice of America; and Vox. As the cellist of the Olewsky trio, he and his relatives, violinist Julian Olevsky and pianist Estela Olevsky, recorded the complete Arensky, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky trios. He was especially proud of his daughter, Maxine Olefsky, who is the second cellist of the Boston College Symphony Orchestra and is a Biology major and Theology minor at Boston College.
Mr. Olefsky performed and conducted master classes at Oxford and Cambridge, sponsored by the European String Teachers Association. He gave master classes and festivals around the globe. Before coming to Texas, Mr. Olefsky was on the cello faculty at the Peabody Conservatory and the Hartt College. Mr. Olefsky was awarded the Mary Helen Thompson Centennial Fellowship and was the director of the UT Plan II Honors Chamber Music Program in the College of Liberal Arts at University of Texas at Austin. He was the Artistic Director of the Amatius classics. He and his wife are members of the Littlefield Society and University of Texas System Chancellor’s Council.
To honor his former teacher, Mr. Olefsky’s former student, Gregory McCoy established the Paul Olefsky Cello Scholarship. The endowed scholarship was approved in 2012 by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System to benefit The University of Texas Butler School of Music. In lieu of flowers and remembrances, contributions may be made to the Paul Olefsky Cello Scholarship fund:The University of Texas at Austin, Butler School of Music, 2406 Robert Dedman Drive, Stop E3100, Austin, TX 78712-1555, Attn: Development.