“Chester has done more to bring the cimbalom to the awareness of American listeners than anyone I know of. His unique combination of superb musicianship and curiosity for new ideas makes him an ideal collaborator for us composers. Over the past decade I have written specifically for him in three of my most ambitious works, The Gospel According to the Other Mary, Scheherazade.2 and my most recent opera, Antony and Cleopatra. The color and atmosphere that the instrument produces when integrated into the modern symphony orchestra is extraordinary. I never think of it as “exotic” but rather as an added timbral dimension to the ensemble of instruments that constitute the modern orchestra.
With his background as an orchestral percussionist Chester brings a secure rhythmic sense to his playing. If I can think that by writing major parts for him I’ve helped in a small way to flag his talents and the instrument itself to the attention of my other composer friends, that would be a great pleasure. I value both his artistry and his friendship greatly.” -John Adams
Acclaimed for his “unnerving dexterity” (San Francisco Chronicle), his “boldly played” (Los Angeles Times), “vivid” (The New York Times), and “expert” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) performances as the solo cimbalom of John Adams’ Scheherazade.2, and praised by the NYT for the “brilliant clarity” of his performance of the featured cimbalom part within Mr. Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, Chester Englander has a thriving career as a percussionist and concert cimbalom player with orchestras throughout the country.
Chester has performed on percussion and/or cimbalom with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the National Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the San Diego Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Opera, the Saint Louis Symphony, the Seattle Symphony, the Oregon Symphony, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Nashville Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, the Iceland Symphony, the Israel Philharmonic, and the New World Symphony. Chester has also toured internationally or within the U.S. with The Cleveland Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Saint Louis Symphony and the Toronto Symphony.
“Golgotha, where Jesus is crucified, is depicted as a somberly demonic carnival: the chorus, a growing rumble of babbling voices; twirls of clarinet; a clatter of cimbalom. That hammered Central European dulcimer — played beautifully, as in Los Angeles, by Chester Englander — remains an ingenious central element of the score, its twang simultaneously folksy and otherworldly.” -Zachary Woolfe, New York Times 4/1/2017
Chester has played under a long list of esteemed conductors, including but not limited to John Adams, Pierre Boulez, the late Reinbert De Leeuw, Stephane Deneve, Christoph von Dohnányi, Gustavo Dudamel, Charles Dutoit, Peter Eötvös, the late Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Alan Gilbert, Vladimir Jurowski, the late Lorin Maazel, Susanna Mälkki, Zubin Mehta, Ludovic Merlot, Gianandrea Noseda, Vasily Petrenko, David Robertson, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jaap van Zweeden, and Franz Welser-Möst. He has taken part in multiple world and U.S. premiere performances of orchestral and chamber works by several composers including John Adams, Thomas Adés, Louis Andriessen, Unsuk Chin, Peter Eötvös, György Kurtág, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Dmitri Shostakovich, Mark Wigglesworth, and Bernd Alois Zimmermann. Additionally, he directly collaborated with John Adams on the composition of the featured cimbalom parts for The Gospel According to the Other Mary and Scheherazade.2., and performed as Solo Cimbalom on the GRAMMY®-nominated recording of the latter (2016).
Chester performed as a soloist with the L.A. Philharmonic New Music Group on two occasions, in 2008 as Glockenspiel soloist on Des Canyons aux Etoiles by Olivier Messiaen with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting, and in 2010 as Percussion soloist on Pierced by David Lang with Jeffrey Milarsky conducting. He also performed as Solo Cimbalom for the U.S. Premiere of da capo by Peter Eötvös with the composer conducting the New World Symphony in April 2015. Chester can be heard on the Cantaloupe, Deutsche Grammophon, Interscope, Naxos, Nonesuch, and Seattle Symphony Media labels. Chester can be seen on the DVD recording of the 2009 World Premiere of City Noir by John Adams with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and he can also be heard playing percussion on the scores of the video game Resident Evil 5 by Capcom, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood by Ubisoft, and the movie Earth by DisneyNature. Chester recently performed cimbalom for the score to Slumberland for Netflix, scored by Pinar Toprak. He also played percussion on the recording of Reach For the Stars by will.i.am that was broadcast on Mars from the NASA Curiosity Rover.
Chester recently announced a new cycle of solos for cimbalom, the first to be written by American composers. The list of composers includes Joseph Pereira, Sakari Dixon Vanderveer, Sean Shepherd, and Andy Akiho. These commissions will be recorded for CD release during the 2023-24 season, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the invention of the concert cimbalom by József Schunda of Budapest, Hungary.
This September, Chester joined the San Francisco Opera as Solo Cimbalom for their World Premiere production of John Adams’ newest opera, Antony and Cleopatra. Chester was also recently featured in an interview with Finnish music journalist Jari Kallio in his blog “Adventures in Music”, in an article titled “Championing the Cimbalom in American Music”.
Chester Englander is an Artist Clinician for Pearl Drums/Adams Percussion, Freer Percussion Products, and Zildjian Cymbals. He and his lovely wife, violinist Rachel Englander, are proud parents to their adorable daughters Charlotte and Alice.