Cellist Nathaniel Rosen began to study his instrument at age six with distinguished teacher Eleanore Schoenfeld. At 13 Rosen was heard by legendary cellist Gregor Piatigorsky during a local competition, and on the basis of this performance Piatigorsky agreed to take Rosen under his wing. At 17 Rosen first traveled to Moscow and was awarded a secondary prize in the 1966 Tchaikovsky Competition along with three other Americans. Afterward, Rosen entered Pasadena City College, and later attended the University of Southern California where from 1971-1976 he served as Piatigorsky's teaching assistant. Rosen made his New York debut in 1970.
In the wake of Piatigorsky's death, Rosen entered a grueling round of competitions. This paid off initially, however, when he won the Naumberg Foundation Award in 1977. In 1978 Rosen returned to Moscow and won the gold medal in the Tchaikovsky Competition; being the first, and so far only, American cellist to win this prestigious prize. Rosen then took a job as principal cellist in the Pittsburgh Symphony under André Previn, and later would accept the same position with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Over time, Rosen moved more toward working as a soloist in recitals, in chamber music groups, and in teaching. Since 1980 Rosen has appeared in Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa in addition to giving regular concerts in North and Central Americas. Although Rosen's staple recital literature generally consists of short cello works, he has premiered several pieces by contemporary composers, as well, including William Kraft, Ezra Laderman, and Paul Schoenfeld.
While Rosen was a success on the concert circuit and remains in demand as a teacher, recording companies proved largely uninterested in his talents. In 1990 Rosen met John Marks, a Rhode Island-based lawyer who was also soon-to-be proprietor of the John Marks Records label. Marks helped connect Rosen with North Star Records, which issued Rosen's first disc, Orientale with pianist Doris Stevenson, which became a critical and commercial success. Since then, Rosen has recorded mostly with John Marks Records in a series of acclaimed audiophile recordings, with Rosen's Suites for solo cello of Johann Sebastian Bach being regarded by many as the best recorded version since Pablo Casals'. Rosen also performs often with his friend, violinist Arturo Delmoni, and has participated on the discs in the latter's series entitled Rejoice: A String Quartet Christmas.