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Following Triumphant “Between Worlds” Tour, Mandolin Virtuoso Avi Avital Returns to the States This Spring

Mandolinist Avi Avital – “a remarkable presence on stage, a natural musical leader, and a virtuoso on his instrument” (Calgary Herald) – returns to the U.S. this spring, following up on an outstandingly successful March tour of music from his 2014 Deutsche Grammophon release, Between Worlds, that took him from coast to coast, including concerts at the National Gallery in Washington DC, the Celebrity Series of Boston, and New York’s 92nd Street Y. This time around Avital features works that were written especially for him, in settings ranging from orchestral to solo. The “explosively charismatic” (New York Times) virtuoso plays Avner Dorman’s Mandolin Concerto with Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra in Nebraska on April 30, marking his debut with the orchestra and in the state. On May 4, he plays another piece written for him, David Bruce’s “vibrant” (Financial Times) Cymbeline, with the Enso String Quartet, at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center. His spring schedule is rounded out by a solo recital at the Virginia Arts Festival (May 5), and two performances with Daniel Cohen leading the Calgary Philharmonic in a program featuring the Dorman concerto (May 14 only) and concertos by Bach and Vivaldi (May 12 & 14).

Avital commissioned Dorman to write his Mandolin Concerto in 2006, and the mandolinist’s recording of the piece with New York’s Metropolis Ensemble and conductor Andrew Cyr was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2010, making Avital the first mandolin soloist in Grammy history to be nominated in a classical category (“Best Classical Instrumental Soloist”). As he says of the upcoming Nebraska debut of the work:

“Ten years ago, the brilliant Avner Dorman wrote a Mandolin Concerto for me. In that span of time, it has become my most frequently performed piece of all the ones I have commissioned. In addition, my recording of this piece was nominated for a Grammy, an honor that helped my work find new audiences.  I’ve played it frequently, including on both coasts of the U.S., and I’m excited now to be bringing it to America’s heartland for the first time.”

Zealously committed to revitalizing the legacy of his instrument, Avital has premiered over 90 works written specifically for him or commissioned by him in pursuit of that goal, including 15 full-length concertos. One such piece, David Bruce’s Cymbeline, was co-commissioned by the San Diego Symphony and the Metropolis Ensemble. Since its 2013 premiere in San Diego, Avital has played Cymbeline around the world, including with the Enso Quartet at his 2014 Carnegie Hall debut. The title comes not from the Shakespeare play but from the original old Celtic word meaning “Lord of the Sun,” an idea that arose from Bruce’s impression of the warmth of the combined mandolin and string quartet sonorities. The contemplative outer movements, “Sunrise” and “Sunset,” are conceived as a preparation for and reflection on the action of the middle movement, “Noon,” in which, as the New York Times said after Avital’s Carnegie Hall debut, “Mr. Avital plucked and strummed energetically during what sometimes sounded like a vigorous, folk-tinged jam session.” The Boston Globe reacted similarly to an earlier Avital performance, writing that he and his collaborators “play with the freedom of rock or jazz musicians, and a sensibility that’s distinctively urban.

Avital’s recent “Between Worlds” tour with accordionist Ksenija Sidorova and percussionist Itamar Doari brought him accolades across the U.S. The title of the tour and the album that inspired it refers to what he calls “the blurry borders between concert hall music and popular music,” with repertoire stretching from Bloch and De Falla to pieces that highlight the folk traditions of Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania and Spain. A trailer for the Between Worlds disc is available here.

Avital is an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist, and Between Worlds was his second release on that label. His debut – praised for “sheer brilliance and lyrical subtlety” (Telegraph, UK) – featured his own transcriptions of four Bach concertos: two originally scored for harpsichord and one each for violin and flute, underscoring Avital’s unique ability to reimagine music for other instruments so that it sounds as though it had always been intended for his. Following Between Worlds, the indefatigable virtuoso released yet another disc for DG, featuring the Venice Baroque Orchestra and titled Vivaldi, about which the Boston Globe raved: “Avital and the Venice Baroque Orchestra put the music back into ‘early music.’” A live performance of Vivaldi material in Carnegie’s Zankel Hall impressed the New York Times as “nothing short of electric,” and the album won an ECHO Klassik award, Avital’s second. Besides featuring Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto in D major on his concerts with the Calgary Philharmonic in May, Avital will be performing excerpts from the Venetian composer’s Four Seasons on the same program as the Dorman Mandolin Concerto in his debut with Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra. A trailer for Vivaldi can be seen here.

High resolution photos can be downloaded here.

Avi Avital: Spring performances

April 30
Lincoln, NE
Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra
Lied Center for Performing Arts
Vivaldi: Four Seasons
Avner Dorman: Concerto for Mandolin and Strings

May 4
Washington, DC
Fortas Chamber Music Concerts with Enso String Quartet
Kennedy Center
David Bruce: Cymbeline for Mandolin and String Quartet

May 5
Norfolk, VA
Virginia Arts Festival
Sandler Center for the Performing Arts
Solo Recital

May 12
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra / Daniel Cohen
Jack Singer Concert Hall
Vivaldi: Concerto for Mandolin in D major
Bach: Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041

May 14
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra / Daniel Cohen
Jack Singer Concert Hall
Vivaldi: Concerto for Mandolin in D major
Bach: Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041
Avner Dorman: Concerto for Mandolin and Strings

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© 21C Media Group, April 2016

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