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Alisa Weilerstein Premieres “FRAGMENTS 1 & 2” in Toronto (Jan 28), Before Touring “FRAGMENTS” Installments to California & NY’s Carnegie Hall (April 1)

Alisa Weilerstein previews “FRAGMENTS 1 & 2” in workshops at Aspen (photo: Graham Northrup)

(November 2022)—“The audience response felt so real to me – you could have heard a pin drop in the hall. Everyone seemed so engaged in experiencing brand new music together in a completely different way,” says Alisa Weilerstein, after previewing the first two installments of her “FRAGMENTS” performance series in workshops at Aspen this past summer. Perhaps her most ambitious and personal project to date, the new multisensory solo cello series sees her weave together the 36 movements of Bach’s solo cello suites with 27 new commissions to make six programs, each an hour long, for solo cello. Weilerstein looks forward to sharing the series’ opening installments with a wider public early next year, when she gives the world premiere performance of “FRAGMENTS 1 & 2” in Toronto (Jan 28), before reprising “FRAGMENTS 2” in Irvine, CA (March 12) and “FRAGMENTS 1” in Santa Barbara, CA (March 10), La Jolla, CA (March 14) and at New York’s Carnegie Hall (April 1). Click here to watch a preview of “FRAGMENTS.”

It was during the lockdowns and concert cancellations of 2020 that Weilerstein first conceived of “FRAGMENTS.” As she recalls:

“I was thinking generally of how we connect – and reconnect – with one another, and how we can make the concert experience more visceral, intense and welcoming.”

She arrived at the idea of integrating Bach’s suites with new music in an original multisensory production, without the distraction of pauses, applause or printed program details. She says:

“I think we almost unconsciously tend to categorize and contextualize most of what we hear and see. I wanted to create a project where the temptation to do that would be stripped away, so that we could really get down to the essence of the music. Personally, I know I listen more deeply if I am not necessarily preoccupied with context and can simply listen to what the music is communicating at the most fundamental level.”

Commissioning new music for “FRAGMENTS” allowed Weilerstein to “celebrate the best of what’s being written today, from the most wonderfully diverse and musically varied group of people.” Ranging in age from 26 to 83, the composers she chose are also diverse with respect to race, gender, geography, compositional approach, musical style and stage of career (see full list below). To all 27, she gave the same compositional prompt, asking each to write ten minutes of music in two or three standalone fragments that she could program between other new excerpts or movements by Bach. She then took on the task of integrating the new works with Bach’s music to create the six installments of “FRAGMENTS,” each of which embraces a wide variety of compositional voices to trace a powerful and wholly original emotional arc.

To help audiences connect with the music, Weilerstein collaborated with artistic producer and advisor Hanako Yamaguchi, the former Director of Music Programming at New York’s Lincoln Center, and director Elkhanah Pulitzer, who has explored the intersection of music and theater in productions for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Opera and other leading performing arts organizations. Together they created a production featuring original costumes by Carlos J. Soto, who has worked with artists including Solange, Davóne Tines and Robert Wilson, and sensitive lighting and set design by Seth Reiser, known for his “almost musical sense of lighting” (San Diego Union-Tribune). As director Pulitzer explains:

“A nuanced visual design created in close relationship to music can ultimately elevate the form. When objects and music and light are in accord with one another, then some magic can happen that sparks a deeper sensory experience for the audience. When it is part of a live performance by an artist such as Alisa – who generates her own magnetic magic – the result can be a connection to pure feeling.”

One of today’s foremost cellists, Weilerstein is known for her “stylistic sensitivity, verve and spontaneous delight in discovery” (The Guardian). The MacArthur award-winner is widely recognized as a leading exponent of Bach’s six solo cello suites, having given rapturously received live performances on three continents, while her Billboard-bestselling recording of the complete set was nominated for a Gramophone Award. No less distinguished as an interpreter of new music, Weilerstein has worked closely with contemporary composers including Lera Auerbach and Osvaldo Golijov, and is the dedicatee of important new concertos by Matthias Pintscher, Joan Tower and Pascal Dusapin, whose Outscape she gave “the kind of debut most composers can only dream of” (Chicago Tribune).

Click here to download high-resolution photos.

Alisa Weilerstein premieres “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

Jan 28
Toronto, ON
Koerner Hall
“FRAGMENTS 1 & 2” (world premiere)

March 10
Santa Barbara, CA
Campbell Hall

March 12
Irvine, CA
The Barclay

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

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

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 Alphadyne Foundation, 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.

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© 21C Media Group, November 2022


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