Born in 1955 in Apeldoorn (Netherlands). Has played the violin since the age of 4. His teachers were Qui van Woerdekom, Henk Knol and Jaap Schroeder. At 14 he started to play the viola, fascinated by its tonal beauty. From 1973 till 1975 he took private lessons and studied at the National Conservatory of Paris as a student of Professor Serge Collot (premier prix premier nommé 1975), who’s culture and style of playing has influenced him most.
He was solo-violist with the Netherland Chamber Orchestra in Amsterdam (under Szymon Goldberg and David Zinman), the Philharmonic Orchestra of Copenhagen and with the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse (under Michel Plasson). Since October 1986 he was a member of the Duesseldorf Symphony Orchestra. In 1987 he founded together with C.A.Linale, E.Piedicuta and L.Sbarcea the Orpheus Quartett, – after first prizes in three international competitions in Rome, Munich and Osaka, in spite of the untimely death of C.A.Linale in 2003 still one of the leading string quartets in Europe.
From September 2002 until march 2013 he was soloist of the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra in Denmark. Between 1978 and 2008 he premiered more than 15 different works for viola solo and various ensembles. His work as a teacher has gained him a international renown, also for the summercourses he gives in Germany, Finland, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and Sweden.
After having taught in different german Hochschules since 1986 (Trossingen, Aachen) he has been professor for viola, first at the university of Mainz 1992-1999 and after that at the Folkwang University of arts in Essen (since 1999) and associated professor at the Conservatori del Liceo in Barcelona (since 2002). Together with the Belgian pianist Philippe Terseleer he founded correspondances, a cycle of concerts intending to demonstrate the relationship between art, poetry and music.
Emile Cantor has been coaching the german national youth orchestra (BJO) since 1988 and has been a member of international juries like the concours Maurice Vieux, the Walter Witte Wettbewerb, the Max Rostal competition and the ARD Wettbewerb for Viola, as well as the London Stringquartet competition and Jugend Musiziert for chamber music.