The Russian cellist, Natalia Grigoryevna Gutman, came from a musical family. She was born in Kazan, Kazakhstan, at a time when the city was packed with the many Russian intelligentsia and artists who had been evacuated before the advance of Hitler's troops. Her family included a long line of musicians: Her grandfather, Anisim Berlin, was a violinist who had been taught by the great pedagogue Leopold Auer; her grandmother was also a violinist and studied not only with Auer but also with Joachim; and her stepfather, Roman Sapozhnikov, is a cellist and well-known in Russia for his studies in teaching repertoire for the instrument. She overheard her stepfather's pupils take their lessons when she was a very small girl. When she received a small-size cello for her fifth birthday, she took to it right away. Her father initially taught her, but in a short time her progress was so rapid that she was accepted into the Gnessin Music School, one of the leading music institutions for youngsters in Russia. Her first teacher was Sergei Aslamazyan. After three years, she graduated to Galina Kosolupova, one of the Institute's finest teachers. After another year, Gutman went on to the Moscow Conservatory, but retained Kosolupova as her teacher for the entire five years, which she considers especially important in her development. After graduation, she had an additional four years of post-graduate work with the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. Apart from Galina Kozolupova, her teacher for almost 15 years, the most significant influence on her musical personality Natalia Gutman owes to Mstislav Rostropovich, to Sviatoslav Richter, her fatherly friend, and to her late husband, the violinist Oleg Kagan. Sviatoslav Richter once expressed his admiration for her saying, “She is an incarnation of truthfulness in music.”
As Natalia Gutman was finishing her schooling, she started making prestigious concert appearances and entered major competitions. She won the first prizes in Moscow's Tchaikovsky Competition and the Dvorák Competition in Prague. Among many other awards she received 1967 the First Prize in the Munich ARD Competition - a prize which marks the beginning of her international career.
For a considerable period of time, Natalia Gutman’s concert appearances in the West were rare; she tended to stay home while her husband, the famous violinist Oleg Kagan, did more touring. In 1980, the two of them played the Johannes Brahms’ Double Concerto at the Edinburgh Festival with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Evgeny Svetlanov, which was her British debut. Beginning with the end of the 1980’s she stepped up her international appearances on all continents, being invited as a soloist by great conductors and orchestras. She has performed with such orchestras as the Wiener Philharmoniker, Berliner Philharmoniker, Münchner Philharmoniker, St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra and many more. Famous conductors she has worked with include Claudio Abbado, Sergiu Celibidache, Bernard Haitink, Dmitri Kitaenko, Kirill Kondrashin, Kurt Masur, Riccardo Muti, Mstislav Rostropovich, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Yevgeny Svetlanov, Yuri Temirkanov and Vladimir Ziva. She has performed at the most prestigious international festivals: Salzburg, the Berlin and Vienna Festwochen, and has regularly attended the Crystal Palace Cello festivals. In 1985 she was particularly praised for a London performance of Prokofiev's Sinfonia Concertante for cello and orchestra; Robert Henderson of the Daily Telegraph said that not even Rostropovich could have surpassed it.
Another vivid interest of Natalia Gutman is in the field of chamber music; her regular partners have included the pianists Martha Argerich, Boris Berman, Felix Gottlieb, Irma Issakadze, Evgeny Kissin, Evgeni Koroliov,Vassily Lobanov, Alexei Lubimov, Alexander Melnikov,Sviatoslav Richter and Elisso Virsaladze, as well as the violinists Kristóf Baráti, Yuri Bashmet, Oleg Kagan, Julian Rachlin and Isaac Stern and cellist Natalia Gutman. At one notable recital, she was accompanied by Sviatoslav Richter in the Chopin Cello Sonata. Renowned also for her interpretation of the complete J.S. Bach’s Solo Suites (BWV 1007-1012), she has performed them in every part of the world, including in Moscow, Berlin, Munich, Madrid, Barcelona and other places.
Natalia Gutman’s repertoire comprises almost all of the literature for violoncello with special emphasis on contemporary music where she often played first performances. Together with Oleg Kagan she has premiered Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto grosso No. 2 for Violin, Violoncello and Orchestra (1985) which the composer dedicated to the congenial couple. Also Schnittke’s first Cello Sonata (1978) and his first Concerto for Cello and Orchestra have been dedicated to Natalia Gutman. She has also regularly performed the Lutoslawski Concerto. She considers extensive, regular, and thorough practice sessions to be essentials and unfailingly repeats the standard scale exercises. She does this with concentration, learned of necessity when her three children were young. She and her husband frequently performed chamber music and were frequently joined by eminent pianist Sviatoslav Richter until his death. She finds chamber music to be the most rewarding aspect of her life as a cellist.
In recent years Natalia Gutman’s concert schedule has been focussing on Europe and, in particular, on France, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany. In 2000 she performed with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Claudio Abbado Strauss’ Don Quichote on the opening of Berliner Festwochen and the Salzburg and Luzern Festivals as well as for the BBC Proms in London. In 2006, she performed Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto in Milan, Valencia, Cologne, London, Taipei and Florence, and in honor of his 100th birthday, both Dmitri Shostakovich cello concertos in Caracas, Tel Aviv, Monte Carlo, Warsaw, Athens, Vienna, the Netherlands, and France. In Paris she played the Lconcerto with the Orchestra Philharmonique, and in Lille, the Henri Dutilleux concerto. 2007 brought concerts with Claudio Abbado and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra at the Festival Iberoamericano, as well as concert engagements in Lisbon, Istanbul, Boston, Montreal, Italy, Netherlands, Taiwan, the UK, Germany, and Switzerland. In 2008 she toured in a quartet with Yuri Bashmet, Viktor Tretjakov and Vassily Lobanov, and as a soloist performing in Taiwan, Canada, the USA, and throughout Europe. Highlights of 2009 included performances of the Prokoviev Sinfonia Concertante, the D. Shostakovich’s 1st Cello Concerto and the H. Dutilleux’ Cello Concerto in Ankara, Parma, St. Petersburg, Boston, Reykjavík, Stuttgart, and Darmstadt. That summer she performed on a festival tour with European Union Youth Orchestra with Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting.
Apart from her extensive activities in international concert life, Natalia Gutman devotes herself to the young generation, and she has given master-classes worldwide. Together with Claudio Abbado she initiated the Berlin Encounters where young musicians are playing chamber music together with the ‘stars’. Since 1991 she has been teaching at the Hochschule für Musik in Stuttgart. She also teaches in Moscow. Each year at the beginning of July, Gutman invites her artist friends to join her at the International Musikfest at the Lake of Tegernsee (Musikfest Kreuth) in the Bavarian Alps, a chamber music and contemporary music festival which she founded 1990 together with Oleg Kagan. After Kagan’s death the festival has been continued in his memory and under his name.
Natalia Gutman recorded the Dmitri Shostakovich's Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Yuri Temirkanov for RCA/BMG-Ariola. She recorded the Dvořák's Cello Concerto and other works for EMI with the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch, and the Robert Schumann and Schnittke Cello Concertos with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Kurt Masur. In 2007 she recorded the Robert Schumann Cello Concerto once again with Claudio Abbado in Italy. Since the early 1990’s live performances of Natalia Gutman have been published on Live Classics. The Label is now editing the Natalia Gutman Portrait Series where her art and its development from the beginnings to the present day will be documented.
In May 2005 German Federal President Köhler bestowed on Natalia Gutman the highest German decoration, “Bundesverdienstkreuz Erster Klasse,” and in 2006 she was nominated to become a fellow of the Royal College of Music in London.