Elena Cheah, American cellist, studied at The Juilliard School and at the Hochschule für Musik „Hanns Eisler“ with Boris Pergamenschikow. As a chamber musician, she has appeared at the Aspen and Ravinia Music Festival in the United States as well as numerous renowned European festivals such as the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, the Rheingau Music Festival, and the Zagreb International Chamber Music Festival; in Australia she has toured with the Streeton Trio under the auspices of the agency Musica Viva. Since 2014 she has also been a member of the Hegel Quartet.
Her chamber music partners have included members of the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
In 2001 she was appointed principal cellist of the Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin under music director Christian Thielemann. Three years later she left this position to pursue less conventional musical interests including her brother’s instrumental rock band, Cheah. During this time she co-founded Trio Grand Cru, a piano trio with a touch of cabaret and a repertoire of film music, jazz and tango. The trio performed at such venues as the Laeiszhalle Hamburg, Philharmonie Berlin, the Bar jeder Vernunft in Berlin and the Köstritzer Zeltfestival in Weimar. During the 2005/2006 and 2010/2011 seasons, she returned to conventionality, serving as principal cellist of the Staatskapelle Berlin under Daniel Barenboim.
As guest principal cellist, Elena has performed and toured with the Concertgebouworkest, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Camerata Bern, the Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich and the Bach Collegium Stuttgart. Tours with these ensembles and the Staatskapelle Berlin have taken her all over Europe and to Japan, Korea, Mexico, and the United States.
From 2006 to 2013, Elena was professor of cello at the Academia de Estudios Orquestales de la Fundacion Barenboim-Said in Seville, Spain. From 2010 to 2012, she taught at the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst Stuttgart, and in April 2014 she was appointed professor of cello at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg.
Her recent performances as a soloist have included concerts with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, the Orquesta Sinfonica de Burgos, the Sinfonietta92 Berlin and the English Chamber Orchestra. She has been a coach and guest professor with the Young Euro Classic Festival, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Orquesta Joven de Andalucia, the Orquesta Nacional Juvenil de Guatemala, Aldeburgh Music and Danish Strings.
As a writer and editor, Elena assisted Daniel Barenboim with his book Everything is Connected (Verso, 2008). Her own book An Orchestra Beyond Borders: Voices of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (Verso, 2009), based on her experiences as member and mentor of the Arab-Israeli youth orchestra, followed a year later. She occasionally writes articles on music-related topics, most recently for the German tablet magazine van, and writes a blog. During semester breaks and when not playing concerts, she also finds time to work on a novel, which may even be finished before this decade ends.