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NZSO debuts American cellist Alisa Weilerstein

NZSO debuts the “distinctive musical voice” of American cellist Alisa Weilerstein

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra welcomes the “distinctive musical voice” of American cellist Alisa Weilerstein to New Zealand for her debut with the NZSO.

At only 32 years of age, the New York-born virtuoso has won international acclaim for her impassioned virtuosity, technical precision and spontaneous interpretations. She is the 2011 MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship recipient and the first cellist to be exclusively signed by the prestigious label Decca Classics in more than 30 years.

Under the baton of her husband and charismatic Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare, this NZSO concert series Wounded Hearts will fittingly explore themes of passion and pain with Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante - a rarely-performed large-scale work for cello and orchestra, Schumann’s Manfred Overture, and Mahler’s impressive Symphony No. 1 ‘Titan’.

Sinfonia Concertante - Prokofiev’s last major masterpiece - is a notorious technical challenge, urging its musicians and the audience to perilous yet soaring heights. Dedicated to esteemed Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007), this work is a revised version of an earlier Cello Concerto written some 20 years before. Prokofiev's interest in the cello was reawakened after hearing Rostropovich play it at the Moscow Conservatory in 1947 and, with advice from the famous cellist, the new Sinfonia Concertante emerged. It premiered in 1952 with conductor Sviatoslav Richter.

An impassioned, modern performance in the hands of this thrilling musical actress, fresh from performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, is inevitable.

Known for her prodigious talent, Weilerstein made her professional debut with the Cleveland Orchestra when she was only 13. In 2010, she performed Elgar’s Cello Concerto in an iconic performance with conductor Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic. The concert was televised live around the world and lauded by The Guardian:

Alisa Weilerstein gave the most technically complete and emotionally devastating performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto that I have ever heard live.

Mahler’s wild and uninhibited First Symphony, the ‘Titan’, was composed some 60 years earlier than Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante. It takes centre stage in the second half of Wounded Hearts, with prize-winning conductor and Chief Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra, Rafael Payare, leading from the podium.

Inspired by the breadth of nature and humanity, Mahler’s ‘Titan’ unbolted the conventions of the symphony and broke open its possibilities. Unlike a typical four-movement symphony, Mahler switched what is normally the second slow movement with the third - a technique also used by Beethoven. Opening the final movement in F minor, before its final resting place in D major, was a dramatic break from convention.

Scored for a large orchestra of 100 players, it unsettled early audiences and remains a monument to Mahler’s creative ambition - the ideal combination of a tone poem and a symphony.

A symphony should be like the world, it must contain everything. Mahler.

Opening the concert is Schumann’s Manfred Overture – a work drawn from the dramatic world of Lord Byron and written some 40 years before Mahler’s First Symphony.

First performed in 1852, the music historian Peter Ostwald wrote that Schumann’s Manfred was written when he was facing “exquisite suffering” from “inner voices”. Byron’s 1816–1817 poem Manfred, on which it is based, contains supernatural elements, in keeping with the popularity of the ghost story in England at the time.

This June/July, experience passion and pain in Wounded Hearts featuring the debut New Zealand performance of prodigious US cellist Alisa Weilerstein with Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare.

...Alisa Weilerstein, one of the most exciting American cellists of the new generation. New York Times.


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