American cellist Alisa Weilerstein has attracted widespread attention worldwide for her combination of natural virtuosic command and technical precision with impassioned musicianship. The intensity of her playing has regularly been lauded, as has the spontaneity and sensitivity of her interpretations. Following her Zankel Hall recital debut, New York Magazine wrote: “Whatever she plays sounds custom-composed for her, as if she has a natural affinity with everything.”
Weilerstein was born in 1982 into a distinguished musical family (her father Donald was first violin in the Cleveland Quartet; her mother is the noted pianist Vivian Weilerstein). She made her professional debut with the Cleveland Orchestra when she was 13 and her Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Youth Orchestra in March 1997. In 2000 she received an Avery Fisher Career Grant and in 2000-01 she was selected for two prestigious young artists programmes: the ECHO (European Concert Hall Organization) “Rising Stars” recital series and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society Two. In May 2004, she graduated from Columbia University in New York with a degree in Russian History. She was named the winner of the 2006 Leonard Bernstein Award, and in 2008 she was awarded Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal prize for exceptional achievement. A graduate of the Young Artist Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Richard Weiss, she was appointed artist-in-residence at the institute beginning August 2009.
In November 2009, Alisa Weilerstein was one of four artists selected to participate in a White House classical music event that included student workshops hosted by the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and playing for guests including President Obama and the First Family. In December 2009 she was the soloist on a tour of Venezuela with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and Gustavo Dudamel.
Another milestone in her career came in spring 2010: Weilerstein made her Berlin Philharmonic debut playing the Elgar Concerto with conductor Daniel Barenboim; the concert was repeated in Oxford, televised live around the world and later issued on DVD. The Guardian reviewer of the Oxford concert wrote: “Alisa Weilerstein gave the most technically complete and emotionally devastating performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto that I have ever heard live.” In August of that year, Weilerstein made her BBC Proms debut with the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä playing Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1, a work she performed in spring 2011 with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic under Yuri Temirkanov on a US tour.
Alisa Weilerstein signed an exclusive contract with Decca Classics in 2011. Her first recording under the agreement, a coupling of the concertos by Elgar and Elliott Carter, with Barenboim conducting the Berlin Staatskapelle, was released in January 2013. The New York Times acclaimed “the soloist’s superb control keenly matched by the conductor’s insightful support”. In April 2014 (US pre-release in January) Decca will issue her new recording of the Dvořák Cello Concerto, with Jiří Bělohlávek conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and October will bring the release of her first solo album.
Alisa Weilerstein has already appeared with all of the other major orchestras throughout North America and Europe, with conductors including Marin Alsop, Pablo Heras-Casado, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Mark Elder, Christoph Eschenbach, Manfred Honeck, Marek Janowski, Paavo Järvi, Jeffrey Kahane, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Ludovic Morlot, Tadaaki Otaka, Peter Oundjian, Matthias Pintscher, Yuri Temirkanov, Juraj Valcuha, Simone Young and David Zinman. She also appears at major music festivals throughout the world as a soloist, recitalist and chamber player, including as part of a core group of musicians at the Spoleto Festival USA and performing with her parents, Donald and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, as the Weilerstein Trio.
Committed to expanding the cello repertoire, Ms. Weilerstein is a fervent champion of new music. She has performed Osvaldo Golijov’s Azul for cello and orchestra around the world. She also frequently performs Golijov’s Omaramor for solo cello. In 2008 she gave the world premiere of Lera Auerbach’s 24 Preludes for cello and piano with the composer at the Caramoor Festival.
Highlights of Alisa Weilerstein’s 2012-13 season included North American and European tours with pianist Inon Barnatan and her debut with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields for a 16-city United States tour. She gave concerts in Berlin performing the Elliott Carter Cello Concerto with Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Staatskapelle, appeared with Gianandrea Noseda and the Philadelphia Orchestra, made her debut with conductor Lionel Bringuier and the Atlanta Symphony and performed at the Kennedy Center with Christoph Eschenbach and the National Symphony Orchestra. Her festival appearances in summer 2013 included Ravinia, Vail, Aspen, Grand Teton, Bonn Beethovenfest, Tivoli and Aarhus.
In the 2013/14 season Ms. Weilerstein is artist-in-residence with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and has engagements with the Toronto, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas and Chicago symphonies and the New York, Los Angeles, Oslo and Israel philharmonic orchestras. Further plans include performances with the Australian Chamber, Philharmonia, Hallé and Zurich Tonhalle orchestras, the Netherlands Philharmonic and the NHK Symphony Orchestra as well as recitals in Europe and North America.
Celebrated for the unique approach, probing intellect, and consummate artistry he brings to a broad range of repertoire, Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan currently serves as the first Artist-in-Association of the New York Philharmonic. This unprecedented three-season appointment sees him appear as soloist in subscription concerts, take part in regular chamber performances, and act as ambassador for the orchestra.
Inon Barnatan has been named as the New York Philharmonic’s first artist in association, a major three-season appointment highlighted by multiple concerto and chamber collaborations with the orchestra. The Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient has performed recitals at Carnegie Hall, Washington’s Kennedy Center, Wigmore Hall and the Concertgebouw, among others. He is a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and frequently performs as a recital partner of cellist Alisa Weilerstein.
Barnatan has performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic; the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Dallas, Cleveland, Philadelphia and San Francisco; the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields; Deutsche Symphonie Orchester Berlin; National Arts Centre Orchestra; and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Born in Tel Aviv in 1979, Inon Barnatan started piano at the age of 3 and made his orchestral debut at 11. He has studied with Professor Victor Derevianko, himself a pupil of Russian master Heinrich Neuhaus; Maria Curcio, a student of the legendary Artur Schnabel; Christopher Elton at London’s Royal Academy of Music; and Leon Fleisher. For more information, visit www.inonbarnatan.com.