September 20, 2022

Alisa Weilerstein (photo: Marco Borggreve)

(September 2022)— Known for her “stylistic sensitivity, verve and spontaneous delight in discovery” (The Guardian), MacArthur award-winner Alisa Weilerstein is one of the foremost cellists of our time. Early next year, she launches “FRAGMENTS” – her new, multisensory solo cello project that weaves together new commissions and unaccompanied Bach – with premieres at Toronto’s Koerner Hall (Jan 28), in Southern California (March 10–14) and at New York’s Carnegie Hall (April 1). These first “FRAGMENTS” dates represent the centerpiece of Weilerstein’s full 2022-23 season. Her other upcoming highlights include the Pittsburgh premiere of Joan Tower’s concerto A New Day with the Pittsburgh Symphony (Sep 23 & 25); Prokofiev’s Sinfonia concertante with the San Diego Symphony (Oct 7) and New York Philharmonic (Feb 22–24); Strauss’s Don Quixote with the Montreal Symphony (April 26 & 27); Barber’s concerto with Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra (Dec 8–10), Miami’s New World Symphony (Jan 21 & 22) and the Cleveland Orchestra (May 4 & 6); a chamber collaboration with Stefan Jackiw and Daniil Trifonov at New York’s 92nd Street Y (May 20); and Bach’s solo cello suites at venues including London’s Wigmore Hall (Oct 16).

“FRAGMENTS” premieres in Toronto, California & NYC

The “FRAGMENTS” series sees Weilerstein weave together the 36 movements of Bach’s solo cello suites with 27 new commissions to make six chapters, each an hour long, for solo cello. Tracing a powerful and wholly original emotional arc, each chapter embraces a wide variety of compositional voices, the composers being diverse with respect to age, race, gender, geography, compositional approach, musical style and stage of career (see full list below). All six chapters will be performed without pauses, applause or program details in a multisensory production by director Elkhanah Pulitzer and artistic producer and advisor Hanako Yamaguchi, with responsive lighting and architectural elements by Seth Reiser and original costumes by Carlos J Soto. Weilerstein gives her first “FRAGMENTS” performances in Toronto (Jan 28), Santa Barbara, CA (March 10), Irvine, CA (March 12), La Jolla, CA (March 14), and at New York’s Carnegie Hall (April 1). Additional performances will be announced in a dedicated “FRAGMENTS” release, to follow next month. Click here to watch a preview of “FRAGMENTS.”

Concerto highlights: Tower, Prokofiev, Strauss, Barber and more

To launch the season, Weilerstein joins Osmo Vänskä and the Pittsburgh Symphony for the Pittsburgh premiere of A New Day (2021) by Joan Tower (Sep 23 & 25). A moving work that captures the composer’s love for her husband of almost five decades, Tower’s concerto is “tailor-made to Alisa Weilerstein’s many strengths as a soloist” (Cleveland Classical). The work was co-commissioned for the cellist by the National Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony and Colorado Music Festival, where she gave its world premiere performance under Peter Oundjian, before giving its Cleveland and DC premieres under Franz Welser-Möst and Louis Langrée respectively.

Next Weilerstein returns to the San Diego Symphony at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, the orchestra’s stunning open-air venue that the cellist helped inaugurate last year, when “her masterful playing … was awe-inspiring music-making of the highest order” (Rancho Santa Fe Review). Led by her husband, San Diego music director Rafael Payare, she rejoins the orchestra for Prokofiev’s Sinfonia concertante (Oct 7). The same lyrically virtuosic work is also the vehicle for her appearances early next year with the New York Philharmonic, in concerts that mark Atlanta Symphony music director Nathalie Stutzmann’s first conducting engagement with the orchestra (Feb 22–24).

For the next of Weilerstein’s fall orchestral highlights, she undertakes the title role in Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote with Payare and the Montreal Symphony (April 26 & 27), where the Venezuelan conductor is currently embarking on his first season as music director. She says of the work: “I love inhabiting this delusional dreamer. It’s a wonderful role to play,” and the San Francisco Chronicle finds her Quixote “aptly vibrant and varied – by turns melancholy, reflective, heroic and foolish … with a vein of internal tenderness.”

For the last of her major fall concerto collaborations, Weilerstein plays Barber’s Cello Concerto with Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra under chief conductor Alan Gilbert (Dec 8– 10). She and the conductor previously performed the same work with the Cleveland Orchestra, prompting BachTrack to declare it “tailor-made for Weilerstein’s expansive – and expressive – cello sound.” Now she, Gilbert and the NDR look forward to recording Barber’s technical tour de force for future release, and next year she revisits the concerto in live concerts with both Gemma New and the New World Symphony (Jan 21 & 22) and Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra (May 4 & 6), where Weilerstein has been a regular guest since making her professional debut with the ensemble at just 13.

Four more concertos feature in the cellist’s programming this season. She performs Osvaldo Golijov’s Azul, which the composer rewrote for her New York premiere performance at the opening of the 2007 Mostly Mozart Festival, with the Vancouver Symphony and Otto Tausk (Nov 4 & 5); Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto with Orchestra Lumos (formerly known as the Stamford Symphony) and Michael Stern (Nov 19 & 20); the same composer’s Second with the Dresden Philharmonic and Thomas Dausgaard (June 10 & 11); and Ligeti’s sole contribution to the genre with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony and Jakub Hrůša (June 14–16).

Solo Bach and chamber music

Having given rapturously received live accounts on three continents, Weilerstein is already recognized as one of the leading exponents of Bach’s six suites for unaccompanied cello. This season, she reprises the first three at London’s Wigmore Hall (Oct 16), a venue with whose audiences she has over the past twelve years developed a close rapport, and performs complete sets on a U.S. tour with dates in East Lansing, MI; (Jan 25–27) Santa Fe, NM (Jan 31); and Portland, OR (Feb 4). A Billboard bestseller, her Pentatone recording of the six Bach suites was nominated for a 2021 Gramophone Award, earning a “definitive place in the Bach suites canon” (Classical Post); as The Guardian put it, “The exceptional cellist’s music emerges with sunlit clarity in a recording that stands up with the best.”

Also a dedicated chamber artist, next spring Weilerstein reunites with her frequent piano partner, Inon Barnatan, for a duo recital at San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre (May 14), and joins violinist Stefan Jackiw and pianist Daniil Trifonov for works by Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky at New York’s 92nd Street Y (May 20).

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“FRAGMENTS” for solo cello

Alisa Weilerstein, project creator & performer
Elkhanah Pulitzer, director
Hanako Yamaguchi, artistic producer & advisor
Seth Reiser, set & lighting design
Carlos J Soto, costume design

Featured composers:
Andy Akiho, J.S. Bach, Courtney Bryan, Chen Yi, Alan Fletcher, Gabriela Lena Frank, Osvaldo Golijov, Joseph Hallman, Gabriel Kahane, Daniel Kidane, Thomas Larcher, Tania León, Allison Loggins-Hull, Missy Mazzoli, Gerard McBurney, Jessie Montgomery, Reinaldo Moya, Jeffrey Mumford, Matthias Pintscher, Gity Razaz, Gili Schwarzman, Caroline Shaw, Carlos Simon, Gabriella Smith, Ana Sokolović, Joan Tower, Mathilde Wantenaar, Paul Wiancko

Leadership support for “FRAGMENTS” is generously provided by Joan and Irwin Jacobs. Patron support for “FRAGMENTS” is provided by Judy and Tony Evnin, Clara Wu Tsai, and Paul Sekhri. “FRAGMENTS” has been made possible with commissioning support from the San Diego Symphony, UC Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures, Carnegie Hall, Celebrity Series of Boston, and The Royal Conservatory of Music for the 21C Festival. Special thanks to Martha Gilmer for her leadership and counsel, and to Celebrity Series of Boston and Aspen Music Festival and School for their in-kind contributions.

Alisa Weilerstein: 2022-23 engagements

Sep 23 & 25
Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra / Osmo Vänskä
Joan TOWER: A New Day for Cello and Orchestra (Pittsburgh premiere)

Oct 7 & 8
San Diego, CA
The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park
PROKOFIEV: Sinfonia concertante

Oct 16
London, UK
Wigmore Hall
BACH: Cello Suites Nos. 1, 2 & 3

Nov 4 & 5
Vancouver, WA
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra / Otto Tausk, conductor
Osvaldo GOLIJOV: Azul

Nov 19 & 20
Stamford, CT
Orchestra Lumos (formerly Stamford Symphony Orchestra) / Michael Stern
SHOSTAKOVICH: Cello Concerto No. 1

Dec 8–10
Hamburg, Germany
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra / Alan Gilbert
BARBER: Cello Concerto

Jan 21 & 22
Miami Beach, FL
New World Symphony / Gemma New
BARBER: Cello Concerto

Jan 25–27
East Lansing, MI
Cobb Great Hall
BACH: Cello Suites Nos. 1–6

Jan 28
Toronto, ON
Koerner Hall
“FRAGMENTS” (world premiere)

Jan 31
Santa Fe, NM
St. Francis Auditorium
BACH: Cello Suites Nos. 1–6

Feb 4
Portland, OR
The Old Church
BACH: Cello Suites Nos. 1–6

Feb 22–24
New York, NY
New York Philharmonic / Nathalie Stutzmann
PROKOFIEV: Sinfonia concertante

March 10
Santa Barbara, CA
Campbell Hall
“FRAGMENTS”

March 12
Irvine, CA
The Barclay
“FRAGMENTS”

March 14
La Jolla, CA
Co-presented by La Jolla Music Society and San Diego Symphony
“FRAGMENTS”

April 1
New York, NY
Carnegie Hall (Zankel Hall)
“FRAGMENTS” (New York premiere)

April 26 & 27
Montreal, QC
Montreal Symphony Orchestra (OSM) / Rafael Payare
STRAUSS: Don Quixote

May 4 & 6
Cleveland, OH
Cleveland Symphony Orchestra / Franz Welser-Möst
BARBER: Cello Concerto

May 14
San Francisco, CA
Herbst Theatre
Duo recital with Inon Barnatan, piano
Program TBA

May 20
New York, NY
92nd Street Y
Trio recital with Stefan Jackiw, violin; Daniil Trifonov, piano
RACHMANINOFF: Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor
TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Trio in A minor

June 10 & 11
Dresden, Germany
Dresden Philharmonic / Thomas Dausgaard
SHOSTAKOVICH: Cello Concerto No. 2

June 14–16
Vienna, Austria
Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra / Jakub Hrůša
LIGETI: Cello Concerto

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© 21C Media Group, September 2022