American cellist Alisa Weilerstein has attracted attention worldwide 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 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.” In September 2011, she was named a MacArthur “Genius” grant recipient. In 2010, she became an exclusive recording artist for Decca Classics, the first cellist to be signed by the prestigious label in over 30 years.
She has appeared with all of the major orchestras throughout the United States and Europe with conductors including Marin Alsop, Daniel Barenboim, Sir Andrew Davis, Gustavo Dudamel, Sir Mark Elder, Christoph Eschenbach, Manfred Honeck, Marek Janowski, Paavo Järvi, Jeffrey Kahane, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Ludovic Morlot, Peter Oundjian, Matthias Pintscher, Yuri Temirkanov, Osmo Vänskä, Simone Young and David Zinman.
Weilerstein’s 2011-12 season included return engagements with the Cleveland Orchestra; the Minnesota and Toronto symphony orchestras; and the Los Angeles, Hamburg and New York philharmonics. In November and December 2011, she toured Australia, appearing with the Melbourne, West Australian and Sydney symphonies with conductors Tadaaki Otaka (Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations), Paul Daniel (Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1) and Osmo Vänskä (Prokofiev’s Cello Concerto) respectively, and made her debut with the Seoul Philharmonic in Korea. In May 2012, she makes her debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London performing the Dvořák Cello Concerto with Juraj Valchau. She also undertakes an eight-city recital tour of Europe with pianist Inon Barnatan.
Additionally, Alisa Weilerstein was appointed as the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra’s artist-in-residence. Her residency included four orchestral concerts, beginning in October 2011. It included performances of Walton’s Cello Concerto with Marin Alsop and concluding in February 2012 with Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante with Paavo Järvi. The residency also featured a chamber concert with Inon Barnatan and clarinetist Jochen Tschabrun.
In May 2010, a major milestone in Weilerstein’s career took place when she performed Elgar’s Cello Concerto with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Daniel Barenboim in Oxford, England for the orchestra’s 2010 European Concert. This concert was televised live to an audience of millions worldwide and also released on DVD by EuroArts. This performance, which followed her Berliner Philharmoniker debut with Barenboim days earlier, was described in The Guardian by Tom Service as “...the most technically complete and emotionally devastating performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto that I have ever heard live…”. Weilerstein records this concerto with Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Staatskapelle in April 2012, pairing this work with Elliott Carter’s Cello Concerto, for her debut Decca Classics release.
In 2009, Weilerstein was one of four artists invited by the First Lady, Michelle Obama, to participate in a widely-applauded and high profile classical music event at the White House that included student workshops hosted by the First Lady, and playing for guests including President Obama and the First Family. A month later she was the soloist on a tour of Venezuela with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, led by Gustavo Dudamel. She has subsequently made numerous return visits to Venezuela to teach and perform with the orchestra as part of its famed El Sistema program of music education.
In August 2010 she made her BBC Proms debut with the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä performing Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1. In 2011, she performed this work on a 15-city US tour with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic led by Yuri Temirkanov and Nikolai Alexeev. The tour included major concert venues such as Walt Disney Concert Hall, Davies Symphony Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall and Carnegie Hall and cemented her reputation as an impassioned and insightful interpreter of the work.
Committed to expanding the cello repertoire, Weilerstein is a fervent champion of new music. She has performed Osvaldo Golijov’s Azul for cello and orchestra around the world. This piece, originally premiered by Yo-Yo Ma, was rewritten for Weilerstein for the New York premiere at the opening night of the 2007 Mostly Mozart Festival. She also frequently performs Golijov’s Omaramor for solo cello. In 2011, she gave the world premiere of a new song cycle for cello and piano by Gabriel Kahane, Little Sleep’s-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight, with the composer at the University of California in Santa Barbara and subsequently toured this work to Vancouver, Minneapolis and Bethesda. Weilerstein and Gabriel Kahane perform the New York City premiere of this piece for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in April 2012. In 2008, she gave the world premiere of Lera Auerbach’s 24 Preludes for Violoncello and Piano with Auerbach at the Caramoor International Music Festival. The duo has also performed this work at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, the Kennedy Center and for San Francisco Performances, juxtaposing it with Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes for Piano arranged for cello and piano by Auerbach.
Weilerstein has appeared at major music festivals throughout the world, including Aspen, Bad Kissengen, Delft, Edinburgh, Jerusalem Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla Summerfest, Mostly Mozart, Schleswig-Holstein, Tanglewood and Verbier. In addition to her appearances as a soloist and recitalist, Weilerstein performs regularly as a chamber musician. She has been part of a core group of musicians at the Spoleto Festival USA for the past eight years and she also performs with her parents, Donald and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, as the Weilerstein Trio, the trio-in-residence at the New England Conservatory in Boston.
In 2008 Weilerstein was awarded Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal prize for exceptional achievement and she was named the winner of the 2006 Leonard Bernstein Award. She received an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2000 and was selected for two prestigious young artists programs in 2000-01: the ECHO (European Concert Hall Organization) “Rising Stars” recital series and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society Two.
Alisa Weilerstein’s love for the cello began when she was just two-and-a-half after her grandmother assembled a makeshift set of instruments out of cereal boxes to entertain her when she was ill with the chicken pox. Alisa, who was born in 1982, was instantly drawn to the Rice Krispies box cello but soon grew frustrated that it didn’t make a sound. After convincing her parents to buy her a real cello when she was four, she showed a natural affinity for the instrument, performing her first public concert six months later. Her Cleveland Orchestra debut was in October 1995, at age 13, playing the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations. She made her Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Youth Symphony in March 1997. Weilerstein is a graduate of the Young Artist Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Richard Weiss. In May 2004, she graduated from Columbia University in New York with a degree in Russian History. In November 2008, Weilerstein, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was nine, became a Celebrity Advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. For more information on Weilerstein, please visit her fan page on Facebook.http://www.alisaweilerstein.com/