Jonathan Manson, tenor viol, was born into a musical family in Edinburgh. Growing up on a farm in the north of Scotland, he fell in love with the cello at the age of six – mainly because the bottom string sounded like the engine of a friend’s Land Rover – and started having lessons at the local primary school. Jonathan and his violinist sister Catherine received their formative training at the International Cello Centre in the Scottish Borders under the direction of Jane Cowan; greatly influenced by the teachings of Pablo Casals, she insisted on all her students using gut strings and, to this day, Jonathan has never played on anything else. At the age of 18, he left Scotland to study with the great cello teacher Steven Doane at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Shortly after arriving, Jonathan heard a recording of the Bach gamba sonatas played by Laurence Dreyfus which inspired him to take up the instrument seriously, devoting himself to lessons with his teacher, Christel Thielmann, and delving into this exciting new repertoire. It was this fascination that eventually led him to Holland, where he studied viola da gamba with Wieland Kuijken for three years.
Jonathan was still a student in The Hague when he was first invited to play with Ton Koopman’s Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, sitting alongside and constantly learning from the Dutch cellist, Jaap ter Linden. He was subsequently invited to become principal cellist of the orchestra, with whom he performed and recorded more than 150 Bach cantatas and, together with Yo-Yo Ma, Vivaldi’s Concerto for two cellos. Nowadays Jonathan specialises mainly in chamber music, performing repertoire ranging from the Renaissance to the Romantic. As the cellist of the London Haydn Quartet, he has finally been able to indulge his passion for the classical string quartet repertoire. Their most recent recording, of Haydn’s op. 50 quartets, is due to be released soon on the Hyperion label, and this season they will also be touring Australia, Canada and the USA. A long-standing partnership with the harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock has led to recordings of the Bach gamba sonatas, and, together with Rachel Podger, Rameau’s Pièces de clavecin en concert. Jonathan frequently plays with the Dunedin Consort, Arcangelo, The English Concert and other leading early music groups. Recent highlights have included recitals with Elizabeth Kenny, Carolyn Sampson and Laurence Cummings, being invited to play the solo viol part in George Benjamin’s opera Written on Skin at the Royal Opera House, and concerto appearances in London’s Wigmore Hall and the Carnegie Hall in New York.
Jonathan teaches at the Royal Academy of Music in London and lives in an Oxfordshire village with his oboist wife and their golden retriever.