Alisa Weilerstein joins the Czech Philharmonic and conductor Tomáš Netopil in Bristol to perform Dmitri Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1. The orchestra will also perform the music of Antonín Dvořák, its founding father.
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Symphonic Variations, Op. 78
Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 107
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 "From the New World"
“I am immensely honored to be part of an artistic team with the potential to follow up fully on the artistic legacy of Jiří Bělohlávek and to further refine the orchestra into the form of perfect musical joy. For me, working with this orchestra is at once a great obligation, a challenge, and a pleasure.“
Tomáš Netopil, who studied violin and conducting both in his native Czech Republic with Jiří Bělohlávek and under the guidance of Jorma Panula at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, made his debut with the Czech Philharmonic in 2007 in a programme of Haydn, Sibelius and Novák. He has subsequently returned to conduct the Orchestra on twelve occasions, most recently in its New Year’s Day concert in 2015. In October 2017, the Orchestra appointed him as Principal Guest Conductor from 2018/19 season together with Jakub Hrůša.
His broad repertoire reflects his Czech heritage with recent performances including Janáček’s Makropulos Case (Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp); The Cunning Little Vixen (Semperoper Dresden, Vienna Staatsoper); Kát’a Kabanová (Vienna Staatsoper); and Dvořák’s Rusalka (Vienna Staatsoper) sitting alongside Busoni’s Dr Faust (Dresden Semperoper); Mozart’s Così fan tutte (Vienna Staatsoper); and Halévy’s La Juive (Vlaamse Opera).
Tomáš Netopil was appointed Music Director of the Aalto Theatre and Philhmarmonie Essen in 2013. In addition to his opera commitments which have included productions of Verdi’s Macbeth, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and La Clemenza di Tito, Wagner’s Lohengrin and The Flying Dutchman, and Strauss’ Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier, Netopil is also a regular presence on the concert platform. Before moving to Essen, he was Music Director of the Prague National Theatre and Estates Theatre for four years.
In addition to his work in the opera house, Netopil has conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig, the Dresdner Staatskapelle, Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, MDR Sinfonieorchester Leipzig, RSB Berlin, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, Frankfurter Museumsorchester, Staatsorchester Stuttgart, Wiener Symphoniker, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Orchestre de Paris, Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest, Orchestre National du Capitol Toulouse, Orchestre National de Montpellier, Orchestre National de Lille, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala Milano, Orchestra dell´Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Roma, Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Orchestra Nazionale della RAI Torino, Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini Parma, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonie, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, NHK Symphony Orchestra and Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
In performances marked by intensity, sensitivity, and a wholehearted immersion in each of the works she interprets, the American cellist has long proven herself to be in possession of a distinctive musical voice. An exclusive recording artist for Decca Classics since 2010, Weilerstein is the first cellist to be signed by the prestigious label in more than 30 years.
For her first album on the Decca label, Weilerstein recorded the Elgar and Elliott Carter cello concertos with Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin. On her second Decca disc, released in early 2014, Weilerstein undertook Dvořákʼs Cello Concerto with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic.
In the 2013/2014 season Weilerstein gave the New York premiere of Matthias Pintscherʼs Reflections on Narcissus under the composerʼs own direction during the New York Philharmonicʼs inaugural Biennial. She also collaborated on Prokofievʼs Sinfonia Concertante with Jaap van Zweden and the Chicago Symphony, and on Elgar with Peter Oundjian and the Toronto Symphony; made her debut with the Japan Century Symphony Orchestra; returned to Londonʼs Royal Festival Hall with Kirill Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony; toured Europe playing Schumann with the Mannheim Symphony Orchestra and Mozarteum Orchestra; and reprised Dvořákʼs concerto with Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic on a European tour that included a return to Londonʼs BBC Proms. Besides serving as artist-in-residence with the Cincinnati Symphony, she had engagements with the Boston, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, and New Zealand symphonies, and with the Israel Philharmonic. In recital, she appeared at Londonʼs Wigmore Hall on a European tour with pianist Inon Barnatan, at Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Recital Centre, at the Aspen Music Festival, and at the Caramoor International Music Festival, where she served as 2014 artist-in-residence.
To launch the 2014/15 season, Weilerstein joined the Milwaukee Symphony and Edo de Waart for the Elgar concerto. She played Dvořák with the New York Philharmonic and Christoph von Dohnányi; Haydn on a German tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra; and Shostakovich with Englandʼs Hallé Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic, and the Orchestra of St. Lukeʼs at Carnegie Hall. Other orchestral collaborations included dates with the Orchestre de Paris, Zurichʼs Tonhalle Orchestra, Berlinʼs Konzerthausorchester, the Montreal Symphony, the Czech Philharmonic, Denmarkʼs Aalborg Symphony, Spainʼs Orquesta de Valencia, and the Luxembourg Philharmonic. The 2014/2015 seasonʼs recital highlights included appearances in Boston, Aspen, and the Wigmore Hall, where Weilerstein showcased repertoire from Solo, her compilation of unaccompanied 20th-century cello music, which was due for U.S. release by Decca in late 2014.
Committed to expanding the cello repertoire, Weilerstein is an ardent champion of new music. She has worked extensively with Osvaldo Golijov, who rewrote Azul for cello and orchestra (originally premiered by Yo-Yo Ma) for her New York premiere performance at the opening of the 2007 Mostly Mozart Festival.
Weilerstein has appeared at major music festivals throughout the world. In addition to her appearances as a soloist and recitalist, she 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 also performs with her parents, Donald and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, as the Weilerstein Trio, the trio-in-residence at Bostonʼs New England Conservatory.
The cellist is the winner of both Lincoln Centerʼs 2008 Martin E. Segal prize for exceptional achievement and the 2006 Leonard Bernstein Award.
In 1892 Dvořák accepted an invitation to the United States for three years and became the director of the National Conservatory in New York. After a short stay overseas, in the winter of 1893 he started working on his new Symphony No. 9 in E minor ‘From the New World’. This composition was conceived in order to prove Dvořák’s theory regarding the use of the characteristic elements of African-American and Native-American music for the emergence of the ‘American national school’, which did not exist at the time of Dvořák’s sojourn in the United States. Experts have debated for more than one hundred years about whether Dvořák used in his symphony specific tunes of Negro songs or not. Dvořák himself gave an ambiguous answer to this question. Once he said, “I’m just finishing a new Sinfonia in E minor. Well, everyone who has instincts must feel the influence of America.” At another time he made a seemingly contradictory statement: “It has been and always will be Czech music.” Another question is to what extent Dvořák could really get to know American music during such a short period of his stay in America, and how much he actually wished to create something for America, which in the beginning treated him so generously and which was certainly very fascinating for him. Structurally, the Ninth Symphony has a very precise, almost textbook form of individual movements. Subconsciously, however, Dvořák must have “quoted” at least one of the familiar tunes since the theme of the first movement is noticeably reminiscent of the Negro spiritual Swing Low Sweet Chariot. The second movement, Largo, might have been inspired by The Song of Hiawatha, while the third movement of the symphony has, according to Dvořák, “something of the Indian character”. In the final fourth movement Dvořák has combined all the themes of the symphony. This perfect management of form in connection with imaginative melodies, harmonies and instrumentation mastery form together a truly unique work of genius. Finally, let us quote from The New York Times in 1893: “We Americans should thank and honor the Bohemian master who has shown us how to build our national school of music.”
Shostakovich was indirectly inspired to compose Cello Concerto No. 1 by the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. When in 1952 he heard him perform Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto for Cello and Orchestra Op. 125, in his mind he was conceiving a composition of the same kind for him ever since. He wrote it in the summer of 1959 in just 40 days, and like Prokofiev used the classical form of concerto, allowing the soloist to show off all of his art. The result is one of the most important and most difficult works for cello in concertante literature.
The score is dedicated to Rostropovich, who performed it for the first time on 4 October 1959 with Yevgeny Mravinsky conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. The concerto contains introspective and autobiographical elements, of which the most striking is the musical motif of DSCH (consisting of the notes D, E flat, C and B natural in German musical notation pronounced as “De-Es-Ce-Ha” = D-mitri Sch-ostakovich). With the exception of the second movement it appears throughout the whole composition and is transposed to G, F flat, C flat, B flat (i.e., it stands out from the frame of the main key). It is heard at the very beginning of the first movement in the cello part and is repeated with the orchestra playing it after in an almost grotesque way.
The second movement is the most extensive and the most cantabile of the whole composition; the third movement has the form of a solo cadenza, but as can be expected, a larger and more autonomous one. The final rondo is played continuously within the ABAC scheme and again employs the DSCH motif, first in fragments and eventually in the full form in the horn part. The concerto ends with coda, rich in effects.
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