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MacArthur Fellow Alisa Weilerstein Gives World Premiere of Pascal Dusapin’s New Cello Concerto with Chicago Symphony

03.28.16
Alisa Weilerstein
21C Media Group

It is a mark of Alisa Weilerstein’s stature as an artist that she is currently poised to premiere two major cello concertos, both of them co-commissioned by top American orchestras, written by leading European composers, and created expressly for her. This spring the MacArthur fellow joins the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Cristian Macelaru for the first of these, giving the world premiere performances of Pascal Dusapin’s Outscape, a Chicago Symphony co-commission (May 26–31), before heading to Germany for its European premiere with the Stuttgart Opera Orchestra (June 19 & 20).

Known for his fiercely emotional music, French master Dusapin has been characterized as “a formidable, hard-to-classify figure who has drawn on both the convulsive avant-gardism of Iannis Xenakis and the brooding late Romanticism of Sibelius” (New Yorker). As Weilerstein explains:

“It is an honor to be asked to bring a new concerto to life, but it is also a great challenge. However, Pascal is a true collaborator and his eagerness to work closely with me throughout the creation of this piece was a great gift. And who better to play the premiere with, than the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a truly magnificent ensemble, filled with great friends and colleagues.”

Committed to expanding and enriching the cello repertoire, the cellist has been hailed as “a champion of contemporary music” (San Francisco Chronicle), and recognized as one of the foremost interpreters of new composition for her instrument; as the New York Times put it, she is “a throwback to an earlier age of classical performers: not content merely to serve as a vessel for the composer’s wishes, she inhabits a piece fully and turns it to her own ends.” 

Next spring, Weilerstein looks forward to premiering the second new cello concerto, the work of Germany’s Matthias Pintscher, under the composer’s direction at the co-commissioning Boston Symphony; she and Pintscher previously collaborated on the New York premiere – heralded as a “rhapsodic, compelling performance” (New York Times) – of his Reflections on Narcissus, during the New York Philharmonic’s inaugural Biennial. 

Besides premiering numerous works by the Grammy-nominated Joseph Hallman and 24 Preludes for Violoncello and Piano by Lera Auerbach, Weilerstein has worked extensively with leading contemporary composer Osvaldo Golijov, who rewrote his Azul for her New York premiere performance at the Mostly Mozart Festival. She also regularly programs the Argentinean composer’s unaccompanied cello piece Omaramor, as heard on Solo, her third release as an exclusive Decca Classics artist; it was after a live account of Omaramor at Charleston’s Spoleto Festival that the Post and Courier concluded: “Composers can rest assured that they have a capable player who can do just about anything, however unorthodox, they might ask of her.”

Click here to see Weilerstein play Omaramor.