Great Artists Series 19-20: Alisa Weilerstein, cello & Inon Barnatan, piano
ALISA WEILERSTEIN, cello & INON BARNATAN, piano
Sunday, March 29, 2020 @ 7 P.M.
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Beethoven complete cello sonatas (Beethoven 250th Celebration)
"A young cellist whose emotionally resonant performances of both traditional and contemporary music have earned her international recognition...Weilerstein is a consummate performer, combining technical precision with impassioned musicianship." So stated the MacArthur Foundation when awarding Alisa Weilerstein a 2011 MacArthur "genius grant" Fellowship, prompting the New York Times to respond: "Any fellowship that recognizes the vibrancy of an idealistic musician like Ms. Weilerstein ... deserves a salute from everyone in classical music." In performances marked by intensity, sensitivity, and a wholehearted immersion in each of the works she interprets, the American cellist has long proven herself to be in possession of a distinctive musical voice.
In the 2018-19 season, Weilerstein releases Transfigured Night on the Pentatone label, joined by Norway's Trondheim Soloists for three masterworks of the First and Second Viennese Schools: Haydn's First and Second Cello Concertos and Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht, from which the album takes its title. Two Scandinavian performances of the album repertoire with the same ensemble open the season. In the spring, she returns to Verklärte Nacht, this time in a trio version, when she tours Europe and the U.S. with pianist and frequent collaborator Inon Barnatan, violinist Sergey Khachatryan, and percussionist Colin Currie. Between these bookends, she gives performances of Shostakovich's Second Cello Concerto with five different orchestras (the Gothenburg Philharmonic, Orquesta Nacional de España, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Valencia Orchestra, and Toronto Symphony), and tours the U.S. playing Dvorák's Cello Concerto with the Czech Philharmonic led by Semyon Bychkov. She also performs the Schumann Concerto with the Rotterdam Philharmonic in Belgium and the Netherlands, and gives accounts of Saint-Saëns's First Cello Concerto, Britten's Symphony for Cello and Orchestra, Richard Strauss's Don Quixote, and Bloch's Schelomo: Rhapsodie Hébraïque in cities from San Diego to Vienna. Finally, she gives two performances, with the composer leading both Copenhagen's DR SymfoniOrkestret and the Cincinnati Symphony, of Matthias Pintscher's new cello concerto Un despertar (An Awakening), written for her and premiered last season. In the midst of her orchestral engagements are five solo performances of Bach's complete cello suites, in Beverly Hills, Boston's Celebrity Series, the Saint-Denis Festival in Paris, the Elbphilharmonie as part of the Schleswig-Holstein Festival and for Cal Performances in Berkeley. After years of playing the pieces individually, this season marks only the third in which she has ventured to perform them all.
Weilerstein's growing and celebrated discography includes a recording of the Elgar and Elliott Carter cello concertos with Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin that was named "Recording of the Year 2013" by BBC Music; the magazine also featured the cellist on the cover of its May 2014 issue. Her next release, on which - as in concerts this season - she played Dvorák's Cello Concerto with the Czech Philharmonic, topped the U.S. classical chart. Her third album, a compilation of unaccompanied 20th-century cello music titled Solo, was pronounced an "uncompromising and pertinent portrait of the cello repertoire of our time" (ResMusica, France). Solo's centerpiece is the Kodály sonata, a signature work that Weilerstein revisits on the soundtrack of If I Stay, a 2014 feature film starring Chloë Grace Moretz in which the cellist makes a cameo appearance as herself. In 2015 she released a recording of sonatas by Chopin and Rachmaninoff, marking her duo album debut with Inon Barnatan, which earned praise from Voix des Arts as "a ravishing recording of fantastic music." And in 2016 she released a recording of Shostakovich's two cello concertos with the Bavarian Radio Symphony under Pablo Heras-Casado, hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as "powerful and even mesmerizing."
Weilerstein has appeared with all the foremost orchestras of the United States and Europe, collaborating with conductors including Marin Alsop, Jirí Belohlávek, Thomas Dausgaard, Sir Andrew Davis, Gustavo Dudamel, Sir Mark Elder, Giancarlo Guerrero, Bernard Haitink, Marek Janowski, Paavo Järvi, Lorin Maazel, Cristian Macelaru, Zubin Mehta, Ludovic Morlot, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Peter Oundjian, Donald Runnicles, Yuri Temirkanov, Michael Tilson Thomas, Osmo Vänskä, Simone Young and David Zinman. Her major career milestones include an emotionally tumultuous account of Elgar's concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic and Daniel Barenboim in Oxford, England, for the orchestra's 2010 European Concert, which was televised live to an audience of millions worldwide and subsequently released on DVD by EuroArts. She and Barenboim reunited in 2012-13 to play Elliott Carter's concerto on a German tour with the Berlin Staatskapelle. In 2009, she was one of four artists invited by Michelle Obama to participate in a widely celebrated and high profile classical music event at the White House, featuring student workshops hosted by the First Lady, and performances in front of an audience that included President Obama and the First Family. A month later, Weilerstein toured Venezuela as soloist with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra under Gustavo Dudamel. She has since made numerous return visits to teach and perform with the orchestra as part of its famed El Sistema music education program.
Committed to expanding the cello repertoire, Weilerstein is an ardent champion of new music. She recently played the world premiere of Pascal Dusapin's Outscape, giving it "the kind of debut most composers can only dream of achieving" (Chicago Tribune) with the co-commissioning Chicago Symphony, before European performances with the Stuttgart and Paris Opera Orchestras. The following season she premiered Matthias Pintscher's cello concerto Un despertar with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which co-commissioned the piece for her, followed by a reprise with the Danish Radio Symphony. She gave the New York premiere of Pintscher's Reflections on Narcissus under the composer's own direction during the New York Philharmonic's inaugural 2014 Biennial, and subsequently the two also performed the work at the BBC Proms. She has worked extensively with Osvaldo Golijov, who rewrote Azul for cello and orchestra (originally premiered by Yo-Yo Ma) for her New York premiere performance at the opening of the 2007 Mostly Mozart Festival. Weilerstein has since played the work with orchestras around the world, besides frequently programming the Argentinean composer's Omaramor for solo cello. At the 2008 Caramoor festival, she gave the world premiere of Lera Auerbach's 24 Preludes for Violoncello and Piano with the composer at the keyboard, and the two have subsequently reprised the work at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, the Kennedy Center, and for San Francisco Performances. Joseph Hallman, a 2014 Grammy Award nominee, has also written multiple works for Weilerstein, including a cello concerto that she premiered with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic in 2008, and a trio that she recently premiered on tour with Inon Barnatan and clarinetist Anthony McGill.
Born in 1982, Weilerstein discovered her love for the cello at just two and a half, when her grandmother assembled a makeshift set of instruments from cereal boxes to entertain her while she was ill with chicken pox. Although immediately drawn to the Rice Krispies box cello, Weilerstein soon grew frustrated that it didn't produce any sound. After persuading her parents to buy her a real cello at the age of four, she developed her natural affinity for the instrument and gave her first public performance six months later. At 13, in October 1995, she played Tchaikovsky's "Rococo" Variations for her Cleveland Orchestra debut, and in March 1997 she made her first Carnegie Hall appearance with the New York Youth Symphony. A graduate of the Young Artist Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Richard Weiss, the cellist also holds a degree in history from Columbia University, from which she graduated in May 2004. In November 2008, Weilerstein, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was nine, became a Celebrity Advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
"One of the most admired pianists of his generation" (New York Times), Inon Barnatan is celebrated for his poetic sensibility, musical intelligence, and consummate artistry. He is the recipient of both a prestigious 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant and Lincoln Center's 2015 Martin E. Segal Award, which recognizes "young artists of exceptional accomplishment." He was recently named the new Music Director of the La Jolla Music Society Summerfest, beginning in 2019.
Barnatan's 2018-19 season features a number of key performances of the Classical repertoire. He performs Beethoven's Fourth Concerto in Hamburg with Alan Gilbert and his NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Beethoven's Third with the Colorado Symphony, and the "Emperor" Concerto with the Des Moines Symphony and at New York's Skaneateles Festival. He also joins New Jersey's Princeton Symphony to play a marathon two-concert performance of all five Beethoven concertos. With the Houston Symphony and David Danzmayr, Barnatan plays Mozart's Concerto No. 22, and with the Australian Chamber Orchestra the same composer's Concerto No. 12 in New York's Alice Tully Hall. Other orchestral performances include Rachmaninov concertos with both the Pittsburgh Symphony under Long Yu and the Israel Philharmonic led by Gilbert, and Copland's jazz-inflected Piano Concerto with the Oregon Symphony. Chamber performances include two concerts of Shostakovich with the St. Lawrence Quartet, one in Carnegie Hall; Brahms with the Dover Quartet; and an all-Bach program on a U.S. tour with the Calidore Quartet. The pianist also tours the U.S. with his long-standing collaborator, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, joined by violinist Sergey Khachatryan and percussionist Colin Currie for a program of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Schoenberg. Finally, Barnatan makes his International Piano Series debut with a recital of Ravel and Mussorgsky at London's Southbank Centre, and performs solo at the Seattle Symphony's Benaroya Hall, in Boston's Celebrity Series, at the Bienen School of Music in Evanston, Illinois, and in Alabama, Virginia, and Portland, Maine.
Summer 2017 saw Barnatan make his BBC Proms debut, playing Ravel's Piano Concerto in G with Kazushi Ono and the BBC Symphony at London's Royal Albert Hall. Highlights of the 2017-18 season also included three performances of Alan Fletcher's new piano concerto: the world premiere in Aspen, a season-opening performance in the Hollywood Bowl with the commissioning Los Angeles Philharmonic, and a reprise with the Atlanta Symphony and Robert Spano. With the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä he played Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto on New Year's Eve, followed by a Midwest tour culminating in Chicago, and with the same forces he returned to the BBC Proms in summer 2018. The season also included debuts with the London and Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestras; a return to the Cincinnati Orchestra for Barber's notoriously difficult Piano Concerto; and solo recitals at London's Wigmore Hall and Southbank Centre, New York's 92nd Street Y, and with the Vancouver Recital Society. He gave collaborative recitals at Carnegie Hall and Philadelphia's Kimmel Center with soprano Renée Fleming, curated and played in a multi-concert Schubert festival for the La Jolla Music Society, and toured the U.S. and Europe with Alisa Weilerstein, including concerts at Carnegie Hall and Wigmore Hall.
A regular performer with many of the world's foremost orchestras and conductors, the pianist recently completed his third and final season as the inaugural Artist-in-Association of the New York Philharmonic. Recent orchestral debuts include the Chicago, Baltimore, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Nashville, San Diego, and Seattle Symphony Orchestras, as well as the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic. Other recent highlights include a complete Beethoven concerto cycle in Marseilles; a performance of Copland's jazz-inflected Piano Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas in San Francisco and at Carnegie Hall; and a U.S. tour with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, playing and conducting Mozart and Shostakovich from the keyboard and premiering a newly commissioned concerto by Alasdair Nicolson.
A sought-after chamber musician, Barnatan was a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's The Bowers Program (formerly CMS Two) from 2006 to 2009, and continues to make regular CMS appearances in New York and on tour. His passion for contemporary music sees him commission and perform many works by living composers, including premieres of pieces by Thomas Adès, Sebastian Currier, Avner Dorman, Joseph Hallman, Alasdair Nicolson, Andrew Norman, Matthias Pintscher, and others. He has given multiple solo recitals at internationally acclaimed venues including the Celebrity Series of Boston, Chicago's Harris Theater, and London's Wigmore Hall, and collaborated with the Mark Morris Dance Group at New York's Mostly Mozart Festival in both 2016 and 2018.
Barnatan's most recent album release is a live recording of Messiaen's 90-minute masterpiece Des canyons aux étoiles ("From the Canyons to the Stars"), in which he played the exceptionally challenging solo piano part at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. In 2015 he released Rachmaninov & Chopin: Cello Sonatas on Decca Classics with Alisa Weilerstein, earning rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. His most recent solo recording, of Schubert's late piano sonatas, was released by Avie in September 2013, winning praise from such publications as Gramophone and BBC Music, while his account of the great A-Major Sonata (D. 959) was chosen by BBC Radio 3 as one of the all-time best recordings of the piece. His 2012 album, Darknesse Visible, debuted in the Top 25 on the Billboard Traditional Classical chart and received universal critical acclaim, being named BBC Music's "Instrumentalist CD of the Month" and winning a coveted place on the New York Times' "Best of 2012" list. He made his solo recording debut with a Schubert album, released by Bridge Records in 2006, that prompted Gramophone to hail him as "a born Schubertian" and London's Evening Standard to call him "a true poet of the keyboard: refined, searching, unfailingly communicative." Next Barnatan looks forward to the release of Beethoven's five piano concertos, which he recorded with Alan Gilbert and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, marking the orchestra's first complete recording of the cycle.
Born in Tel Aviv in 1979, Inon Barnatan started playing the piano at the age of three, when his parents discovered his perfect pitch, and made his orchestral debut at eleven. His musical education connects him to some of the 20th century's most illustrious pianists and teachers: he studied first with Professor Victor Derevianko, a student of the Russian master Heinrich Neuhaus, before moving to London in 1997 to study at the Royal Academy of Music with Christopher Elton and Maria Curcio, a student of the legendary Artur Schnabel. Leon Fleisher has also been an influential teacher and mentor. Barnatan currently resides in New York City. For more information, visit www.inonbarnatan.com.
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