As a scholarship student at the Royal Academy of Music, Lionel Handy won all the prizes for cello and chamber music, including the prestigious Moir Carnegie Recital Diploma prize and Principal's Prize. He was awarded first prize in the Muriel Taylor Competition by Jacqueline du Pre and with several other important scholarship awards he was able to continue his studies with Janos Starker in Banff and with Pierre Fournier in Geneva. He has been professor at the Royal Academy of Music since 1982, and also teaches at the Birmingham Conservatoire in addition to summer schools in Europe. Many of his former pupils hold important positions in orchestras throughout the UK. He was recently awarded F.R.A.M. from the Royal Academy of Music.
Lionel was principal cello with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields for ten years with whom he recorded extensively and toured the United States and Europe many times. Later as solo cellist with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, he performed an eclectic range of concertos from CPE Bach and Boccherini to Tavener and Roxburgh.
Lionel has given several solo recitals at the Wigmore Hall and South Bank. In 2001 he was invited to participate in ydiathe inaugural South African Chamber Music Festival, returning for a second visit in 2003. He has premiered many contemporary works and with the London Sinfonietta has worked with many of the leading composers of recent times including Tippett, Berio, Lutoslawski, Henze, Carter, Part, Birtwistle, Reich and Knussen. Lionel plays as guest principal with most of the UK's leading orchestras including the Philharmonia, LSO, Halle, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and English Chamber Orchestra. His interest in British twentieth century music has led to performances of the concertos by Finzi, Bax, Walton and Delius.
Much in demand as a chamber musician, Lionel has broadcast frequently for BBC Radio Three and European networks and has made numerous commercial recordings. He is a member of London Music Phoenix Ensemble and Trio Eluard with whom he has performed in festivals in Denmark, Germany, Greece, Spain as well as the UK.
Lionel launched a series of concerts in 2008 to promote new works for the cello and to commemorate the centenaries of Carter and Messiaen, and also to celebrate his own physical recovery from a serious accident. His subsequent recording for the Cadenza music label, has received both national and international critical acclaim. A second CD featuring the monumental solo sonata by Kodaly was released in January 2011 and a CD featuring works by Bax will be released in November 2012. To date, he has commissioned nine new works for cello. He plays on a cello by Fendt (circa 1820).