American cellist Alisa Weilerstein has attracted widespread attention 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.”
A major highlight of Ms. Weilerstein’s 2009-10 season was performing 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 worldwide, broadcast on the BBC and will be released on DVD. This performance, which followed her Berliner Philharmoniker debut with Mr. Barenboim days earlier, was described by Tom Service of The Guardian as “...the most technically complete and emotionally devastating performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto that I have ever heard live...”. Ms. Weilerstein also performed this concerto in August at her Edinburgh International Festival debut with the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä.
In November 2009, Ms. Weilerstein was one of four artists selected to participate in a White House classical music event that included student workshops hosted by the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and playing for guests including President Obama and the First Family. In December 2009 she was the soloist on a tour of Venezuela with the Simôn Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, led by Gustavo Dudamel. In May 2010 she made her LA Philharmonic debut with Mr. Dudamel performing the Dvorak Cello Concerto.
In August 2010 she made her BBC Proms debut with the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä performing Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 and she will perform this work on a 14-city tour with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic led by Yuri Temirkanov and Nikolai Alexeev in 2010. This tour includes concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, the Kennedy Center in Washington and Carnegie Hall.
Other highlights of Ms. Weilerstein’s 2010-11 season include: recitals with pianist Inon Barnatan at London’s Wigmore Hall and in Philadelphia at the Kimmel Center; performing with the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester led by Matthias Pintscher in Berlin; playing Matthias Pintscher’s Reflections on Narcissus with the Tonhalle Orchestra and Mr. Pintscher in Zurich; three recitals with singer/songwriter Gabriel Kahane of a new song cycle for cello and piano composed by Mr. Kahane based on a poem by Galway Kinnell; performing the Beethoven Triple Concerto with pianist Jeremy Denk, violinist Chee Yun and conductor Marek Janowski with the San Francisco Symphony; and making her debuts with the National Orchestra of Spain, the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra performing Osvaldo Golijov’s Azul.
Ms. Weilerstein has been continually engaged as a soloist by orchestras across the U.S. including the Baltimore Symphony, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Detroit Symphony, LA Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Saint Louis Symphony, the Seattle Symphony and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, among others. In Europe she has performed with the Barcelona Symphony, Berliner Philharmoniker, Bournemouth Symphony, Gulbenkian Orchestra Lisbon, Hallé Orchestra, Leipziger Bachkollegium, NDR Hamburg, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre National de Lyon, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich.
Conductors Ms. Weilerstein has performed with include Marin Alsop, Daniel Barenboim, Sir Andrew Davis, Gustavo Dudamel, Sir Mark Elder, Christoph Eschenbach, Lawrence Foster, Hans Graf, Manfred Honeck, Paavo Jarvi, Jeffrey Kahane, Louis Langrée, Andrew Litton, Jesus Lopez-Cobos, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Ludovic Morlot, Peter Oundjian, Itzhak Perlman, Kirill Petrenko, David Robertson and Osmo Vänskä.
In addition to her appearances as a soloist, Ms. 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 seven years and she also performs with her parents, Donald and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, as the Weilerstein Trio, which is the Trio-in-Residence at the New England Conservatory in Boston. In December 2010 Ms. Weilerstein will give her first public performance under the baton of her younger brother and the winner of the 2009 Malko Competition for Young Conductors, Joshua Weilerstein, with the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra in Sweden.
In 2008 Alisa 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. Ms. Weilerstein also recorded a CD for EMI Classics’ “Debut” series in 2000.
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 and performed 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. Ms. Weilerstein is a graduate of the Young Artist Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Richard Weiss, and she has been appointed artist-in-residence at the Institute beginning August 2009 which will see her visit the campus to work with cello students. In May 2004, she graduated from Columbia University in New York with a degree in Russian History.
In November 2008 Ms. Weilerstein, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was nine, was made a Celebrity Advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. She meets with members of the local chapters of JDRF when she tours with the aim of demonstrating to young people that living with and managing diabetes does not stop you from doing anything you want to do. For more information on Ms. Weilerstein, please visit www.alisaweilerstein.com.