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MacArthur Fellow Alisa Weilerstein Returns to Chicago Symphony (May 29-30

Engagements with two of the nation’s foremost orchestras bring MacArthur Fellow Alisa Weilerstein back to the States this summer. At the Chicago Symphony, where she proved herself “an artist who stands significantly apart from other interpreters of her generation” (Chicago Tribune), the American cellist performs Prokofiev’s Sinfonia concertante with Jaap van Zweden (May 29 & 30). Then, having recently revealed “intensity, tonal beauty, and emotional depth” (New York Times) with the New York Philharmonic, she returns to give the New York premiere of Matthias Pintscher’s Reflections on Narcissus under the composer’s own direction during the inaugural NY Phil Biennial (June 6). It is also in New York that Weilerstein will attend the commencement exercises on May 21 at her alma mater, Columbia University, following last month’s announcement that she had been named as the 2014 recipient of the University Medal for Excellence, an honor conferred annually on an outstanding Columbia graduate under the age of 45.

Prokofiev’s Sinfonia concertante is a work with which the cellist has already made her mark. After an account with the Sydney Symphony and Osmo Vänskä, the Berkshire Review reported: “Weilerstein played with extraordinary maturity and depth of understanding. … She is certainly an amazing virtuoso, but what was more amazing was her interpretation of the music.” As the Australian confirmed:

“Her rich tone and expressive vibrato penetrated to the emotional heart of the Sinfonia concertante’s lyrical passages. She demonstrated dazzling brilliance in virtuosic sections, dispatching furious flurries of notes with dexterity and clarity. But Weilerstein also took care to unearth the essential Prokofievian element of whimsical dreaminess.”

For her upcoming appearances with the Chicago Symphony at the orchestra’s Symphony Center home, the cellist reunites with Jaap van Zweden, with whom she collaborated earlier this month at the Dallas Symphony.

The New York Philharmonic’s first Biennial – a kaleidoscopic, city-wide exploration of new music – is one of the most anticipated events of the season; the New Yorker hails it as “visionary,” while New York magazine calls it “the music world’s answer to the Whitney’s regular roundups of recent art.” A key highlight of the innovative festival’s inaugural season is Weilerstein’s New York premiere performance of Reflections on Narcissus, a tour de force for cello and orchestra by Matthias Pintscher, who conducts her and the orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall. She and the German composer-conductor previously undertook the concerto with Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra, prompting the Neue Zürcher Zeitung to observe:

“In the young but already established American cellist Alisa Weilerstein, the Zurich performance found a passionate interpreter. … Pintscher refuted the stereotype that composers cannot conduct, and cogently revealed both the sensuous and dramatic features of his ‘narcissist’ music.”

After these two prominent orchestral collaborations, the cellist remains in the States for a trio of festival engagements, at the Castleton Festival (July 19), Aspen Music Festival (Aug 5–8), and Caramoor International Music Festival (July 31–Aug 3), where her residency offers audiences the chance to hear, live, the interpretation of Elgar’s Cello Concerto that won her BBC Music magazine’s coveted “Recording of the Year” award. Weilerstein concludes the summer playing Dvorák’s Cello Concerto with the Czech Philharmonic (Aug 28), as on her recent Decca Classics release, on which her performance is distinguished by a “take-no-prisoners emotional investment that is evident in every bar” (New York Times).

Details of Alisa Weilerstein’s upcoming engagements are provided below, and more information is available at the artist’s web site: alisaweilerstein.com

Alisa Weilerstein: upcoming engagements

May 21

New York, NY

Columbia University

Commencement exercises

Honoree: University Medal for Excellence

May 29 & 30

Chicago, IL

Symphony Center

Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Jaap van Zweden

Prokofiev: Sinfonia concertante