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Stunning musicianship takes center stage when American cellist Alisa Weilerstein joins Pacific Symphony for Dvorak's passionate Cello Concerto
November 05, 2012
The rich, emotional depth of the wide-hipped cello is exploited for all its worth in the hands of exquisite virtuoso Alisa Weilerstein, when she performs Dvorak's standard-setting Cello Concerto with Pacific Symphony for "Alisa Weilerstein Plays Dvorak." Acclaimed worldwide for her "soulful expression and physical abandon" (New York Times), Weilerstein won the 2011 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, granted to individuals who have shown exceptional merit and promise of continued creative work. She is the first cellist in more than 30 years to be signed by Decca Classics, which released her debut album at the end of October. Led by guest conductor Alexander Shelley, Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra's chief conductor, the Symphony opens the program with festive melodies of Handel's "Music for the Royal Fireworks," followed by Debussy's magical depiction of the sea, "La Mer."
"Alisa Weilerstein Plays Dvorak" takes place Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 6-8, at 8 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, the concert includes a preview talk with Alan Chapman beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25-$112; for more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit PacificSymphony.org.
"The young American cellist Alisa Weilerstein simply steals the show. Her musicianship is absolutely stunning. She captures a perfect balance between introversion and songfulness, sensitivity and whimsy, seeming entirely at one with the music, her cello becoming an extension of her heart. It's remarkable playing—the sign of a truly great artist in the making."—;Classic FM
The concert includes Handel's "Music for the Royal Fireworks," which was commissioned by Great Britain's King George II in 1749 for a celebration of the end of the War of the Austrian Succession. It caused such a clamor in London that more than 12,000 people rushed in, causing a three-hour traffic jam at the London bridge. Majestic and heavy on brass and woodwinds, it is one of the late glories of the Baroque style. Also on the program—in contrast—is French impressionist Debussy, whose sensual evocation of the sea in all its variety is on display in "La Mer."
"Debussy's 'La Mer' was composed between 1903 and 1905," says the Symphony's Music Director Carl St.Clair. "He began composing it in France and finished it on the banks of the English Channel. It is a three-movement work depicting the ocean. But the subtlety, the detail—the colors, the feeling of moving waves, the splashing and the ocean mist and how he depicts this musical sound—is really Debussy's genius. I know many artists who feel this is one of the greatest orchestral tapestries in the repertoire. It is truly a magnificent work depicting the great ocean. Some people say it is a miracle—just as the ocean is a miracle."
The concert concludes with the passion and grandeur of Dvorak's breakthrough Cello Concerto, as the spotlight focuses on virtuoso Weilerstein. At first, Dvorak refused to write a concerto for cello, claiming that "the cello is a beautiful instrument, but its place is in the orchestra and in chamber music. As a solo instrument it isn't much good." However, he was inspired by cellist Victor Herbert while serving as director for the National Conservatory in New York, and the resulting composition set the standard by which all subsequent cello concertos have been measured.
"Interestingly enough," notes St.Clair, "it was Victor Herbert who was actually performing as principal cellist in the orchestra that premiered Dvorak's Symphony No. 9, 'From the New World.'"
Cellist Weilerstein has attracted widespread attention for playing that combines a 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 (in New York's Carnegie Hall) recital debut in 2008, Justin Davidson of New York Magazine said: "Whatever she plays sounds custom-composed for her, as if she has a natural affinity with everything." Weilerstein has already appeared with most of the major conductors and the major orchestras throughout the United States and Europe.
English conductor Shelley was unanimously awarded first prize in the 2005 Leeds Conductors Competition, where he was described in the press as "the most exciting and gifted young conductor to have taken this highly prestigious award. His conducting technique is immaculate, everything crystal clear and a tool to his inborn musicality." Along with his role as conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra, Shelley also enjoys a close relationship with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, with which he performs regularly both in Bremen and around Germany. He is artistic director of their Zukunftslabor project, an award-winning series which aims to build a lasting relationship between the orchestra and a new generation of concertgoers through grass-roots engagement. The son of professional musicians, Shelley studied cello and conducting at the Robert-Schumann-Hochschule, Dusseldorf, and in 2001 he founded the Schumann Camerata in Dusseldorf.
Pacific Symphony's classical series performances are made possible by the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation, with additional support from American Airlines, The Westin South Coast Plaza, KUSC and PBS SoCal.
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