Luis and Clark
Louie Leguia. Photo: Kevin Sprague
Louie Leguia grew up in Los Angeles, California, and trained at the Ecole Normale in Paris, and the Juilliard School. His teachers included Arthur van den Bogaerde, Kurt Reher, Andre Navarra, Leonard Rose, and Pablo Casals. Luis, or Louie as he is known to his friends, had a very challenging childhood but managed to overcome many obstacles to become a successful cellist.
His mother worked as a secretary to support her son and most of his childhood was spent moving from boarding house to boarding house. Starting the cello late in life, at nearly 15 years old, Louie had advanced enough by the time he was 17 to go to Prades France and audition for Pablo Casals, who made him his only scholarship student. At 19 he was offered principal cello with the Longine Symphonette and Leopold Stokowski asked him to be assistant principal cello and soloist with the Houston Symphony. Instead, he went to study at Juilliard. He joined the Boston Symphony in 1963.
Louie has played concertos and solo recitals on several continents, making tours through Europe, South Africa, Lebanon, Ethiopia and Syria. He has made 15 solo tours of South America, including one in which he performed all the Beethoven sonatas and variations, and has performed widely in Canada and in the United States. He has given master classes all over the world and was the Chair of the Boston Conservatory Cello Department for nearly a decade.
He has given numerous first performances, including the Boston premiere of Schoenberg’s Cello Concerto and the world premiere performances of works by Robert Parris, Pamela J. Marshall and Vincent Frohne. He played the world premiere of the Piston “Duo” for cello and piano, which was dedicated to him, at the Library of Congress in the 70’s. Robert Evett composed his cello concerto for Mr. Leguía, who gave the world premiere of that composition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. on the occasion of its 30th anniversary. Other composers who have written works expressly for Louie include Edgar Valcarcel, Josep Soler.
In the early 1970s Louie played a recital in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa. It was sponsored by the U.S. State Department and was the first concert ever to be given to a biracial audience.
While on sabbatical from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, during the winter of 1984-85, the tri-centennial of Bach, Louie performed the complete cello suites of J.S.Bach in Madrid, Spain and made recital and concerto appearances in Portugal, Berlin, Tubingen and Belgium. He also did extensive research on Spanish music for the cello. It was soon after, that he started his other journey, to find a more beautiful and penetrating cello for his performances.
Though music had consumed most of his life, Louie became an avid sailor in the 1970s. When he was out on his catamaran he could feel the hulls humming and it started him thinking about the resonance. He realized how the old boats were made, and seeing the new fiberglass ones and the ultra-sophisticated boats in carbon fiber, made him think those materials might make a great medium for a cello. He thought he could do away with all the things in a traditional cello that a wooden instrument needs for structural stability. He could make it lighter and responsive, and very strong. He wanted the tone of a Stradivarius or Montagnana cello and he wanted it to carry out over an orchestra when playing a concerto. And he wanted it with a beautiful quality.
Louie retired from the Boston Symphony in 2007, but continues to play as a soloist. He plays a robust game of tennis and tries to swim every day. But his days are also focused on checking each instrument that leaves the shop. Luis and Clark now has owners of his instruments in over 55 different countries, from Norway to South Africa and from Panama to Malaysia. There is even one in the Congo. Louie sometimes laments that he will only be remembered as the inventor of the carbon fiber stringed instrument and not a cellist, but it’s been a remarkable journey for someone with very humble beginnings.
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