Los Angeles Times
“Much as Andres Segovia brought the classical guitar into the concert hall, the Israeli virtuoso Avi Avital is doing the same with the mandolin.”
“A musician who recognizes no boundaries except those of good taste and who has the artistry to persuade listeners to follow him anywhere.”
The New York Times
“The words “superstar” and “mandolinist” still look odd next to each other. Yet in the classical world they are starting to be joined with some frequency…. Avi Avital ….was nothing short of electric.”
“Without having played a sound, Avi Avital had the audience, and the orchestra, composed, concentrated and tuned in. Avital’s mandolin sounds amazingly versatile: sounds of the Classical Spanish guitar and even an electric bass come through. He caresses his instrument and the sounds elicit from him. Deep sensitivity characterizes the slow movements of Bach’s elegant Violin Concerto in A minor and his virtuosity, precision work, runs and trills, are to be admired in Avner Dorman’s Concerto for Mandolin and Strings. After two acclaimed encores Avital stretched his mandolin in the air like a trophy. A great triumph for a small instrument.”
“The chemistry among Antonini, Avital and the 14-member group of strings and continuo generated maximum wattage in Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto in C (RV 425) and an arrangement (presumably Avital’s own) of Bach’s D-Minor keyboard concerto (BWV 1052), for mandolin and orchestra. Vivaldi’s trademark cascading runs and fluttering trills sat beautifully beneath Avital’s fleet fingers, while his pleasantly twangy mandolin emerged in judicious balance again the lithe, animated ensemble. This listener would not trade Bach’s keyboard original for this mandolin transcription, but it makes a satisfying alternative and went down with tremendous vitality and spontaneity on Thursday. Avital’s digital dexterity drew a close link with the work’s probable original guise as a violin concerto. A clamorous standing O was the result, which the Israeli virtuoso acknowledged offering one of his own solo pieces as an encore — “Prelude + Bucimis,” which began as a quiet little folk song before morphing into a mandolin version of a pounding, heavy-metal jam.”
“The way Avital plays the mandolin, you could see why a seducer might find it useful. At one moment he conjured a passionate strumming of sound, astonishing from such a modest looking instrument. At others his sound retreated to a tiny silvery twang, placed just so to round off a phrase with delicate tenderness. And in the rushing motoric moments in Bach’s E minor Suite he showed an amazing fleet-fingered virtuosity.”
“extremely persuasive, virtuosic, and deeply expressive… It [Bach D minor Chaconne] is intense and emotional, as staggeringly impressive on mandolin as it is in the original”
“sweet-voiced mandolin, played with rare grace, guts, flair and daring by Avi Avital…springing fingerwork, spirited crescendos and revelatory imaginative reinvention”
“The purity of the musical line, a hallmark of Baroque compositions, is greatly enhanced by the mandolin’s delicate voice, immediately inviting us to listen in closely. Avital takes some risks with the material, to better display the qualities of his beloved instrument – and they all pay off. The sound he achieves with the Venice Baroque Orchestra is full, luxurious and mysterious – just like Venice itself… Put aside your prejudice against the mandolin and open your ears to the sounds of Venice – you will be glad you did!”
A pioneering artist and the first mandolin soloist to be nominated for a classical Grammy, Avi Avital has been compared to Andres Segovia for his championship of his instrument and to Jascha Heifitz for his incredible virtuosity. Passionate and “explosively charismatic” (New York Times) in live performance, he is a driving force behind the reinvigoration of the mandolin repertory.
Highlights of the 2022-23 season see performances of Jennifer Higdon, Anna Clyne and Giovanni Sollima Mandolin Concertos commissioned for Avital, alongside tours with the Academy of Saint Martin-in the-Fields, Il Giardiano Armonico/Antonini, B’Rock and Arcangelo, duo recitals with Ksenija Sidorova (accordion), Olga Pashchenko (harpsichord/fortepiano) and Omer Klein (piano), and a tour of Australia with cellist Giovanni Sollima. Avital launches his new venture, the “Between Worlds Ensemble” with a three-part residency at the Boulez-saal in Berlin. The ensemble was formed to explore different genres, cultures and musical worlds focussing on different geographical regions and in its first year will feature traditional, classical and folk music from the Iberian Peninsula, Black Sea and Italy.
Avital’s recent engagements include the Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Zurich Tonhalle, Deutsche Symphonie Orchester Berlin, Orchestre National de Lyon, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Israel Philharmonic and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra working with conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Kent Nagano, Osmo Vänskä, Yutaka Sado, Jonathan Cohen, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Nicholas McGegan, Omer Meir Wellber, Ton Koopman and Giovanni Antonini.
Avital appears frequently at major venues across the world including Carnegie Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie, Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, London’s Wigmore and Royal Albert Halls, Zurich’s Tonhalle, Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana, Paris Philharmonie, Vienna Konzerthaus, and Palais de Versailles with a live telecast on TV Arte.
He has commissioned over 100 works for the mandolin including concertos for mandolin and orchestra by Anna Clyne, Jennifer Higdon, Avner Dorman, David Bruce and Giovanni Sollima which he has performed with orchestras such as the Munich Philharmonic/Urbański, Atlanta Symphony/Spano, RAI Torino/Bancroft and the BBC Symphony Orchestra/Rustioni.
Avital collaborates with musicians across many genres and has been Artist-in-Residence (“Portrait Artist”) at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, BOZAR in Brussels, Dortmund Konzerthaus (Zeitinsel) and he will be Artist-in-Residence at the Bodensee Festival in 2023. He is a regular presence at major festivals such as Aspen, Hollywood Bowl, Salzburg, Tanglewood, Spoleto, Ravenna, MISA Shanghai, Cheltenham, Verbier, Lucerne, Bad Kissingen, Rheingau, Gstaad and Tsinandali.
An exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist, his sixth album for the label The Art of the Mandolin was released in 2020 to outstanding international press reviews. This followed recordings of solo Bach (2019), Avital meets Avital (2017) with oud/bassist Omer Avital, ECHO Klassik Award winning Vivaldi (2015), an album of Avital’s own transcriptions of Bach concertos and Between Worlds (2014), a cross-generic chamber collection exploring the nexus between classical and traditional music.
Born in Be’er Sheva in southern Israel, Avital began learning the mandolin at the age of eight and later studied at the Jerusalem Music Academy and the Conservatorio Cesare Pollini in Padua with Ugo Orlandi. He plays a mandolin made by Israeli luthier Arik Kerman.