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.”
La Scena Musicale
“Then along comes a virtuoso like Avi Avital and suddenly attention must be paid. What he can do with a mandolin must be heard to be believed. He can make it sing and dance; he can make it laugh and cry. And he can put together an entire concert featuring the mandolin that is both serious and entertaining.”
“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 Heifetz for his incredible virtuosity. Passionate and “explosively charismatic” (New York Times) in live performance, he is the driving force behind the reinvigoration of the mandolin: For more than two decades he has reshaped the history and the future of his instrument, playing it in the most prestigious halls all over the world. In addition to that, Avi Avital has expanded the mandolin repertoire not only with transcriptions of various pieces, but by commissioning over 100 works for the mandolin including concertos for mandolin and orchestra by Jennifer Higdon, Anna Clyne, Avner Dorman and Giovanni Sollima.
Highlights of the 2023/24 season see performances with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony and Krzysztof Urbański, Vancouver Symphony and Tianyi Lu, Camerata Salzburg and Anja Bihlmaier as well as concerts with the Kammerakademie Potsdam alongside tours with Il Giardino Armonico with Giovanni Antonini, CHAARTS and the Venice Baroque Orchestra. Avi Avital will also be on tour with Hanzhi Wang (accordion) through North America and will play recitals with Anneleen Lenaerts (harp), Omer Klein (Jazz piano) and Brooklyn Rider. He is Artist-in-Residence at the Schwetzinger SWR Festspiele and will come back to DeSingel Antwerp, Wigmore Hall London, Philharmonie Berlin, Rheingau Musik Festival and Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival.
Avi Avital’s recent engagements include the Chicago, Seattle and Toronto Symphony Orchestras, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Los Angeles Philharmonic, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, Orchestra della Svizzera italiana, Deutsches Symphonie- Orchester Berlin, Orchestre National de Lyon, Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Israel Philharmonic, and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra working with conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Kent Nagano, Alan Gilbert, Robert Spano, Osmo Vänskä, Yutaka Sado, Nicholas McGegan, Omer Meir Wellber and Ton Koopman.
In 2023, Avi Avital launched his new venture, the “Between Worlds Ensemble” with a three-part residency at the Boulez Saal in Berlin and concerts in Bucharest, Warsaw, Hamburg, Ludwigshafen and Antwerp. The ensemble was formed to explore different genres, cultures and musical worlds focusing on different geographical regions and in its first year featured traditional, classical and folk music from the Iberian Peninsula, the Black Sea and South Italy.
Avi Avital’s versatility has led to features as “Portrait Artist” at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, BOZAR in Brussels, the Dortmund Konzerthaus (Zeitinsel) and as Artist-in-Residence at the Bodensee Festival and La Jolla Music Society California. He is a regular presence at major festivals such as Aspen, Salzburg, Hollywood Bowl, Tanglewood, Ravenna, MISA Shanghai, Cheltenham, Verbier, Lucerne, Bad Kissingen, Rheingau, Gstaad and Tsinandali.
An exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist, Avi Avital’s seventh album “Concertos”, recorded with Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini, features mandolin concertos by Vivaldi, Hummel, Bach, Barbella and Paisiello. His album “The Art of the Mandolin” (2020) has been received with high praise and top reviews in The Times, Independent, Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine as well as the international press. Previous recordings “Bach” (2019), “Avital meets Avital” (2017), “Vivaldi” (2015), an album of Avital’s own transcriptions of Bach concertos (2012) and “Between Worlds” (2014) also received numerous awards.
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 studied at the Jerusalem Music Academy and the Conservatorio Cesare Pollini in Padua with Ugo Orlandi. He plays on a mandolin made by Israeli luthier Arik Kerman.