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On Dec 1 & 3, Mandolin Virtuoso Avi Avital Makes Atlanta Symphony Debut, Reprising Grammy-Nominated Account of Avner Dorman Concerto

Avi Avital, the pioneering mandolin virtuoso whose performances have been described as “nothing short of electric” (New York Times), makes his Atlanta Symphony debut next month (Dec 1 & 3) with a pairing of Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto in C and Avner Dorman’s Concerto for Mandolin and Strings (2006), the work with which he became the first exponent of his instrument to score a classical Grammy nod. Winter also takes Avital on tour, first with the award-winning Dover Quartet (Feb 7–19), and then with his near namesake and fellow Moroccan-Israeli, jazz composer, bassist and oud player Omer Avital (no relation), with whom he celebrates the North American debut of the genre-crossing “Avital meets Avital” project (March 11–25). These engagements follow on the heels of the mandolinist’s triumphant debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl where, having succeeded in making The Four Seasonsseem more Italian-sounding than ever before,” he capped the evening with a solo encore imbued with “the energy of a rock ’n’ roller” (Los Angeles Times).

It was Avital who commissioned Avner Dorman’s concerto ten years ago. The Israeli composer thanked him,

“… for many hours of experimenting with unusual techniques; for introducing me to the mandolin’s vast repertoire, including Baroque mandolin, Russian folk music, Bluegrass, Indian music, Brazilian jazz and avant-garde; and for performing the piece with depth and virtuosity.”

Since then, the Baroque-inspired concerto has become the most frequently performed of the 90-plus works – 15 of them full-length concertos – that have been written for or commissioned by Avital to date. His recording of the piece with New York’s Metropolis Ensemble and Andrew Cyr was nominated for a 2010 Grammy Award, making him the first mandolin soloist in Grammy history to be nominated in a classical category (as “Best Classical Instrumental Soloist”). Reviewing the recording, Sequenza21 praised his “incisive and nuanced” performance, and the New York Times observed:

“Consistent hallmarks are the vigor of [Dorman’s] writing and the virtuosity it demands of its interpreters. … The colorful solo line, played with stunning agility by Avi Avital, draws on all the usual mandolin techniques – chordal tremolandos, singing melodies – and adds bent pitches, high-velocity scampering (against sliding violin figures) and dynamic nuance.”

For his Atlanta Symphony debut, Avital couples the work with Vivaldi’s sole mandolin concerto, under the baton of Laura Jackson (Dec 1 & 3). In the New Year, after a return to New York’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (Dec 11 & 13), he reprises Dorman’s concerto alongside two more Baroque masterpieces – arrangements of Bach’s A-minor Violin Concerto and D-minor Harpsichord Concerto – in company with Germany’s Cologne Philharmonic (Jan 1) and the Israel Philharmonic under Osmo Vänskä (Jan 24–29). Click here to see Avital play the first movement of Dorman’s concerto with Andrew Cyr leading the Metropolis Ensemble.

A driving force behind the reinvigoration of the mandolin repertoire, Avital once again showcases his commitment to the cause in a six-stop West-Coast tour with the Dover Quartet (Feb 7–19). Together with a solo arrangement of the Bach Chaconne and Six Miniatures for string quartet and mandolin by the late Georgian composer Sulkhan Tsintsadze, their program features another of the works written especially for Avital: David Bruce’s Cymbeline for mandolin and string quartet. Since giving its 2013 premiere, Avital has championed the work around the world in performances that include his 2014 Carnegie Hall debut and a collaboration with the Dovers at the 2014 Savannah Music Festival. This prompted the Financial Times to declare Cymbelinea vibrant piece with a golden hue,” in which the mandolinist proved himself “dazzling.” The upcoming tour includes dates at Portland’s Chamber Music Northwest (Feb 15), Eugene’s Oregon Bach Festival (Feb 18), and Toronto’s Koerner Hall, where Avital and the Dovers – “the young American quartet of the moment” (New Yorker) – present the Canadian premiere of Bruce’s quintet (Feb 11). Click here to hear the Dover Quartet and Avital play “Sunrise,” the opening movement of Cymbeline.

Explosively charismatic” (New York Times) in live performance, Avital and his partners have been described as playing “with the freedom of rock or jazz musicians” (Boston Globe) even in Baroque repertoire. His latest collaboration enables him to explore this facet of his musicianship further, when he joins forces with Omer Avital – “a pioneer in combining jazz with myriad world music elements” (Los Angeles Times) – to co-lead “Avital meets Avital” performances of their original music and arrangements, live on tour throughout North America. The two Avitals share much more than a surname: they attended the same music academy in Jerusalem, where Omer studied jazz and Avi the classical tradition, and both were born and raised by Moroccan parents in Israel. Also featuring Yonathan Avishai on piano and Itamar Doari on percussion, “Avital meets Avital” brings their different musical backgrounds and shared cultural heritage into dialogue, drawing on the diverse influences of Moroccan and North African sounds, classical and folk traditions, Israeli harmonies, and Mediterranean rhythms to create a musical melting pot where chamber music meets the raw energy of jazz. Click here to see a preview for “Avital Meets Avital.”

High-resolution photos can be downloaded here.

Avi Avital: winter engagements

Nov 18
Bad Aibling, Germany
Recital with Giampaolo Bandini, guitar

Nov 22
Burghausen, Germany
Recital with Kuss Quartet

Dec 1 & 3
Atlanta, GA
Atlanta Symphony (debut) / Laura Jackson
Vivaldi: Concerto in C
Avner Dorman: Concerto for Mandolin and Strings

Dec 4
Athens, GA
University of Georgia
Recital with Kenneth Weiss, harpsichord

Dec 6
Fayetteville, AR
Walton Arts Center

Dec 11 & 13
New York, NY
Chamber Music Society
Vivaldi: Concerto in D for Mandolin, Two Violins and Continuo, RV 93

Dec 15
London, UK
King’s Place
Performance with Mahan Esfahani
Scarlatti: Sonata for Mandolin & Basso Continuo in D minor, K 90
Vivaldi: Sonata in G minor, RV 85
Mel Powell: Recitative and Toccata Percossa (1951) for harpsichord solo
Beethoven: Andante Con Variazioni in D for mandolin and harpsichord, WoO 44/2
Avital: Kedma for Retuned Mandolin
Avital/Esfahani: Exchange for Gifts
Bach: Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord Obbligato in G, BWV 1019

Dec 21
Milan, Italy
Venice Baroque Orchestra
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in G, RV 310 (arr. mandolin)
Bach: Violin Concerto in G minor, BWV 1056 (arr. mandolin)
Barbella: Concerto for Mandolin & Strings in D
Bach: Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041 (arr. mandolin)

Jan 1
Cologne, Germany
Kölner Philharmonie
Bach: Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041 (arr. mandolin)
Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras No. 6
Dorman: Concerto for Mandolin & Strings (2006)
Bach: Harpsichord Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052 (arr. mandolin)

Jan 18–20
German tour with Ksenija Sidorova and Itamar Doari
Jan 18: Berlin, Germany
Jan 19: Neuss, Germany
Jan 20: Aalen, Germany

Jan 24, 25, 26, 27 & 29
Tel Aviv, Israel
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra / Osmo Vänskä
Bach: Harpsichord Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052 (arr. mandolin)
Bach: Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041 (arr. mandolin)
Avner Dorman: Concerto for Mandolin & Strings (2006)

Jan 28
Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv Chamber Music
Vivaldi: Concerto for Strings in G “Concerto alla rustica”
Telemann: Concerto in G for viola and strings
Corelli: Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 8
David Bruce: Cymbeline for mandolin and string quartet
Sulkhan Tsintsadze: Six Miniatures for String Quartet and Mandolin

Feb 2–4
Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich Chamber Orchestra / Mayumi Hirasaki
Vivaldi: Concerto for Mandolin in C, RV 425
Vivaldi: Sonata No. 3 in D minor, RV 63, “La Follia” (Theme and 19 Variations)
Vivaldi: Concerto for Mandolin (lute) in D, RV 93

Feb 7–19
Tour with Dover Quartet
David Bruce: Cymbeline, for string quartet and mandolin
Sulkhan Tsintsadze: Six Miniatures for String Quartet and Mandolin
J.S. Bach: Chaconne from Partita in D minor for violin, BWV 1004 (arr. mandolin)
Feb 7: Chattanooga, TN (String Theory at the Hunter)
Feb 11: Toronto, CA (Royal Conservatory of Music)
Feb 15: Portland, OR (Chamber Music Northwest)
Feb 17: San Diego, CA (Art Power at UCSD)
Feb 18: Eugene, OR (Oregon Bach Festival)
Feb 19: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Feb 9
Fort Worth, TX
Recital with Kenneth Weiss, harpsichord

Feb 26
Sochi, Russia
Winter International Arts Festival
Moscow Soloists Chamber Orchestra

March 15–25
“Avital meets Avital” tour with Omer Avital, oud and bass
With Omer Klein, piano; Itamar Doari, percussion
March 15: Calgary, AB, Canada
March 25: Washington, DC (Washington Performing Arts)

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© 21C Media Group, November 2016

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