MacArthur Fellow Alisa Weilerstein Follows U.S. Release of Solo with Dates at New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, and Dallas Symphony This Fall

Alisa Weilerstein

MacArthur Fellow Alisa Weilerstein returns to the States with a bang this fall. October 28 brings the U.S. release of Solo, her compilation of unaccompanied 20th-century cello music. With Kodály’s sonata as its centerpiece, the album is her third as an exclusive Decca Classics artist, and represents a highly personal musical statement. On the heels of the new release, the cellist revisits her two previous recordings in collaboration with a trio of top American orchestras. She joins forces with both the Cleveland Orchestra (Nov 6, 8 & 9) and Dallas Symphony (Nov 14–16) for Elgar’s Cello Concerto, the work that won her BBC Music magazine’s coveted “Recording of the Year” award, and plays Dvorák’s Cello Concerto – as on her chart-topping sophomore disc – with the New York Philharmonic and Christoph Dohnányi (Dec 4, 5, 6 & 9). While in New York, she also joins key members of the Philharmonic for an evening of chamber music at the 92nd Street Y (Dec 7).

Chart-topping Dvorák and more with NY Philharmonic and Inon Barnatan

December finds Weilerstein back at the New York Philharmonic after her New York premiere of Matthias Pintscher’s Reflections on Narcissus for cello and orchestra under the composer’s direction during the inaugural NY Phil Biennial this past June. This time she will be joined by conductor Christoph Dohnányi, under whose leadership she played Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the Boston Symphony earlier this year, for four accounts of Dvorák’s Cello Concerto. Her recent recording of the work with the Czech Philharmonic topped the U.S. classical chart in July; the New York Times credited her performance with a “take-no-prisoners emotional investment that is evident in every bar,” and, in a five-star review, the UK’s Telegraph confirmed: 

“Weilerstein’s nuanced performance shows a deep understanding of the music’s emotional trajectory. … There is a spine-tingling thrill and generosity of feeling to this performance that make it irresistible.”

Dvorák is also on the program when the cellist takes part in an intimate chamber evening at New York’s 92nd Street Y, where she joins the Philharmonic’s first Artist-in-Association, her regular duo partner, Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan, as well as Principal Associate Concertmaster Sheryl Staples, Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps, Principal Clarinet Anthony McGill, and other leading members of the orchestra to play the Czech composer’s Piano Quartet in E-flat and La revue de cuisine by his compatriot Martinu.

Their New York appearance follows Weilerstein’s duo recital with Inon Barnatan, with whom the New York Times considers her especially “temperamentally well matched,” at the Berliner Philharmonie (Nov 24). Their program features Lera Auerbach’s 24 Preludes for Violoncello and Piano, of which the cellist gave the world premiere performance with the composer at the keyboard at the 2008 Caramoor Festival.

Award-winning Elgar in Cleveland and Dallas

It was with the Cleveland Orchestra that Weilerstein played Tchaikovsky’s “Rococo” Variations at just 13, and she remains a Cleveland favorite of whom the Plain Dealer writes: “When she takes the stage, even the most well-known of scores becomes a new adventure.” The vehicle for her upcoming return to the orchestra, under the baton of Giancarlo Guerrero, is Elgar’s Cello Concerto, which has already figured prominently in her career. It was her recording of the work with Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Staatskapelle – her Decca debut – that won Weilerstein BBC Music magazine’s coveted “2013 Recording of the Year” award, while her live rendition with the same conductor at the Berlin Philharmonic impressed the New York Times as “incandescent” and The Guardian as “technically complete and emotionally devastating”; the concert was televised to an audience of millions worldwide, and subsequently issued on DVD.

For her third major U.S. orchestral engagement this fall, Weilerstein reprises Elgar’s concerto with the Dallas Symphony and Music Director Jaap van Zweden. Their first performance falls on World Diabetes Day (Nov 14), for which she will make related outreach appearances in the Dallas area. Having been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was nine, the cellist became a Celebrity Advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation six years ago; given her grueling touring schedule, she offers an excellent example of how managing diabetes need not mean curtailing ambition, a message that she has already done much to spread.

Weilerstein continues touring the Elgar concerto in Hong Kong, with the NHK Symphony Orchestra and Paavo Järvi, as well as in Europe, where she also joins Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra and new music director Lionel Bringuier for a New Year’s Eve rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “Rococo” Variations.


Solo on new Decca album and in recital

When Weilerstein joined the Decca Classics roster four years ago, she became the first cellist to be signed by the prestigious label in more than 30 years. Her new album, Solo, underscores her role as a musician with something deeply personal to say. Reflecting her commitment to contemporary composition, its program embraces a century of unaccompanied music for her instrument through works spanning four countries and three continents, all of which are nonetheless linked by the folk elements, gypsy inflections, and colloquial musical idioms they share.

At its heart is Zoltán Kodály’s Sonata for Solo Cello, Op. 8 (1915), in which the Hungarian composer gives “full rein to his tormented and craggy vision, qualities fully conveyed in the tireless Ms. Weilerstein’s staggering performance” (New York Times). The sonata is a signature work for the cellist, who offers live renditions this season in solo recitals at London’s Wigmore Hall (Jan 5) and the Aspen Festival’s Winter Music Series (Feb 12). Her account of the Kodály is also captured in the summer movie If I Stay, and on the accompanying soundtrack album; based on the best-selling novel by Gayle Forman, the picture release marks Weilerstein’s feature film debut in a cameo appearance as herself.

Solo is completed by Bright Sheng’s Seven Tunes Heard in China (1995), the Suite for Solo Cello (1926) by Spain’s Gaspar Cassadó, and Omaramor (1991) for solo cello by Osvaldo Golijov, with whom Weilerstein has worked extensively; indeed, the Argentinean composer rewrote his Azul for cello and orchestra especially for her season-opening appearance at the Mostly Mozart Festival. A deluxe digital version of the disc also includes György Ligeti’s Sonata for Solo Cello and Britten’s Tema Sacher, as well as Prokofiev’s March from Music for children arranged for solo cello by Gregor Piatigorsky. Both Omaramor and Cassadó’s suite feature in Weilerstein’s upcoming solo recital at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco (Feb 14), where, as in London and Aspen, she balances her program with unaccompanied suites by J.S. Bach.

Details of Alisa Weilerstein’s upcoming engagements are provided below, and more information is available at the artist’s website: