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!”
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. More than 100 contemporary compositions have been written for him, 15 of them concertos including by Anna Clyne, Avner Dorman and Giovanni Sollima which will be premiered in 2019/20. Enhanced by his infectious spirit of adventure and the warm rapport he fosters with his audience, Avital’s championship of his instrument is taking the mandolin centre stage.
An exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist, he has made four recordings for the label. Recently released Avital meets Avital (2017) with oud/bassist, Omer Avital, explores their shared cultural heritage and brings their differing classical and jazz musical backgrounds into dialogue. Earlier releases featured original concerti and transcriptions by Vivaldi (2015) his own Bach concerto transcriptions (2012) and Between Worlds (2014), a cross-generic chamber collection exploring the nexus between classical and traditional music.
In 2018/19, Avital returns to Carnegie Hall to makes his debut on the main stage with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Highlights of that season in the US also include play-directing the Seattle Symphony, and performances with the Detroit Symphony, San Diego Symphony, and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. He also returns to Canada to perform with Les Violons du Roy, ahead of a North American tour in the following season. In the Spring of 2019, following on from his most recent Deutsche Grammophon recording, Avital tours North America with bassist Omer Avital. Recent appearances in the US also include performances with the St. Louis Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony, and Chicago Symphony.
Avital’s inspired music-making has electrified audiences in performances around the world. He has performed with orchestras such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Deutsche Symphonie Orchester Berlin, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Tonhalle Zurich, Israel Philharmonic, Dresden Phiharmonic, and Tasmania Symphony Orchestra, under conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Kent Nagano, Osmo Vänskä, Ton Koopman and Giovanni Antonini. Performances have taken him to Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, London’s Wigmore and Royal Albert Halls, Berlin Philharmonie, Zurich’s Tonhalle, Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana, Paris Philharmonie, Vienna Konzerthaus, New York’s Carnegie Hall and Palais de Versailles with a live telecast on TV Arte.
He is a favorite on the international festival circuit having appeared at the Aspen, Salzburg, Tanglewood, Spoleto, Ravenna, Cheltenham and Verbier Festivals, amongst others, and he was Portrait Artist at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in 2017 which involved over 20 performances of 10 different programmes. Artistic partners in a variety of genres with whom he collaborates include Andreas Scholl, Juan Diego Flórez, Dawn Upshaw, Giora Feidman, Ray Chen, David Greilsammer, Richard Galliano, Ksenija Sidorova, percussionist Itamar Doari and the Dover and Danish String Quartets. He was featured artist in a Zeitsinsel at the Dortmund Konzerthaus where he curated a weekend of programmes featuring classical, jazz and improvisations and a new collaboration with the Venice Baroque Orchestra and Georgian puppet theatre, Budrugana Gagra.
Born in Be’er Sheva in southern Israel, Avital began learning the mandolin at the age of eight and soon joined the flourishing mandolin youth orchestra founded and directed by his charismatic teacher, Russian-born violinist Simcha Nathanson. He later graduated from the Jerusalem Music Academy and the Conservatorio Cesare Pollini in Padua, Italy, where he studied original mandolin repertoire with Ugo Orlandi. Winner of Israel’s prestigious Aviv Competition in 2007, Avital is the first mandolinist in the history of the competition to be so honoured. He plays on a mandolin made by Israeli luthier Arik Kerman.
Instrument: Arik Kerman (1998)
Strings: Thomastik-Infeld (154, Medium)