This spring, Alisa Weilerstein indulges her love of the intimate subtleties of chamber music on a U.S. tour with old and new friends: her frequent collaborator, pianist Inon Barnatan; Armenian violinist Sergey Khachatryan; and Scottish percussionist Colin Currie. Their program centers on a piano trio arrangement of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, along with Beethoven’s “Ghost” Trio and an arrangement of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15 for piano trio and percussion. (A February performance by this “starry group” in London’s Wigmore Hall was praised for its “virtuosity and finesse” in a four-star review in The Guardian.) Weilerstein also gives complete performances of the Bach cello suites this spring and summer in the U.S., UK, China, France and Germany, in addition to orchestral appearances with Austria’s Tonkünstler-Orchester, and the Cincinnati Symphony under the baton of Matthias Pintscher, whose concerto she will be playing. Finally, the cellist returns to one of her favorite destinations, the Caramoor festival, joining the Orchestra of St. Luke’s to open the summer season with a rendition of Dvořák’s beloved Cello Concerto.
Last fall’s Pentatone release Transfigured Night, on which Weilerstein played Schoenberg’s string orchestra version of Verklärte Nacht with Norway’s Trondheim Soloists, inaugurated her new, multi-year role as Artistic Partner of that ensemble. The piano trio version of the piece which she plays with Inon Barnatan and Sergey Khachatryan on tour this spring was arranged by Schoenberg’s composition student, Austrian pianist Eduard Steuermann. In a review of the chamber program, The Guardian was enthusiastic about Steuermann’s reduction, saying that it “effectively condenses four of the original six string lines into the piano part and treats the violin and cello almost as concertante soloists.” Acknowledging the “individual brilliance” of each of the performers, the same review went on to praise the “almost Haydnesque delicacy and finesse” of the Beethoven, and found that in the Shostakovich “Weilerstein’s keening solos gave the slow movement a fierce edge, and the finale was as enigmatic as it is in the orchestral original.” The tour stops at Chicago’s Harris Theater, the Virginia Arts Festival in Norfolk, Washington DC’s Kennedy Center, and the Folly Theater in Kansas City during the month of May, culminating with a stand-alone performance at the Aspen Music Festival in July.
Weilerstein has long been a part of the Caramoor family, having participated in the Evnin Rising Star program in 1999, served as the festival’s inaugural Artist-in-Residence in 2014, and even gotten married in Caramoor’s Sunken Garden. On opening night this season (June 15) she joins conductor Peter Oundjian and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s for Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, her 2014 Decca recording of which, with the late Jirí Belohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic, was distinguished by a “take-no-prisoners emotional investment that is evident in every bar” (New York Times).
Having begun just a few seasons ago to publicly perform the entire set of Bach’s six unaccompanied cello suites, the cellist has since made the monumental undertaking a regular feature of her schedule. Besides several performances of parts of the set, she plays this pinnacle of the Baroque cello repertoire in its complete version for Cal Arts in Berkeley on May Day; in China on a brief two-city tour in June; and this summer at England’s Aldeburgh Festival, the Saint-Denis Festival in Paris, and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival in Hamburg, at the acoustically and architecturally spectacular Elbphilharmonie. The LA Times has called Weilerstein’s Bach “a true model of the meaning of mastery when it comes to what a string instrument is capable of. … The sound might easily have come from her voice, her lungs and her being. … Her command of the cello, of its sound and of Bach, was consummate.”