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Enjoying a diverse playing career over the last few decades, Karen Stephenson is a multi faceted musician who is equally at home in an orchestral, chamber or solo setting. She is active as an educator and teacher in both cello and piano.



Born in Stoke on Trent, Karen studied cello with Emma Ferrand and read Music at Trinity College, Cambridge before completing her Postgraduate study at the Royal Academy of Music under David Strange.



A former Principal cello of the National and European Youth Orchestras, Karen has held positions in the BBC Philharmonic and Concert Orchestras, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and since 2008, the position of co-Principal cello in the Philharmonia.



She has played guest Principal cello with a number of ensembles, including the Philharmonia, LSO, RSNO, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Philharmonic, Scottish and Concert Orchestras.


Karen also works regularly in the Session world, notably with COOL Music and can be heard on many film and TV soundtracks from Call the Midwife to Harry Potter.

karen stephenson

Photo: Petra Semerdjiev

Karen has worked extensively with many of the world’s finest conductors including Esa Pekka Salonen, Andris Nelsons, Gustavo Dudamel, Lorin Maazel, Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Andrew Davis, Ed Gardner, Mirga Gražinytè-Tyla, Christoph Dohnanyi and John Wilson.



Karen enjoys an active career as a chamber musician, including guesting with the Allegri Quartet, the Philharmonia players, and the RPO soloists; she has performed at the Wigmore Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Cadogan Hall and the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester.



A regular broadcaster on Radios 2 and 3, Karen has played much of the concerto repertoire for cello, from Elgar and Lalo to Dvorak and Saint Säens. She has dueted with many of the world’s greatest classical stars including Maxim Vengerov and Nigel Kennedy. Karen has appeared as soloist with the Philharmonia in Olivier Messiaen’s La Transfiguration and as soloist in Karl Jenkins’s Benedictus from The Armed Man which was broadcast live on Classic FM and performed in front of Harry and Meghan!



Karen plays a beautiful modern cello made by Marc Soubeyran of Ludlow which can be heard in the audio clip below; her bow is made by Stephane Thomachot of Paris.

'Bring Him Home' from Les MisérablesKaren Stephenson, cello and Patrick Degg, piano
00:00 / 04:00
karen stephenson in car

Karen loves touring the world, and has enjoyed fabulous trips to the USA, Europe, Japan and South America; her favourite concert halls include the Lincoln Center, New York, the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam and the Suntory Hall, Tokyo.


However, she is happiest when she is at her home in Bedfordshire, surrounded by her family, (husband David and son Jack), 5 chickens and 3 cats!


She drives a convertible car called 'The Lady' which is probably the least practical car for a cellist, but she doesn’t let that deter her!


She plays the piano for relaxation and enjoys listening to music from Richard Strauss to Jamie Cullum.

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