Alisa Weilerstein joins the Czech Philharmonic and conductor Tomáš Netopil in Nottingham to perform Antonín Dvořák's Cello Concerto. The orchestra will also perform a selection of poems from Bedřich Smetana's cycle "My Country" and Elgar's Enigma.
Royal Concert Hall
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Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104
Tábor and Blaník, symphonic poems from "My Country"
Enigma, Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36
“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.
“A young cellist whose emotionally resonant performances of both traditional and contemporary music have earned her international recognition, … Weilerstein is a consummate performer, combining technical precision with impassioned musicianship.” So stated the MacArthur Foundation when awarding Alisa Weilerstein a 2011 MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship. An exclusive recording artist for Decca Classics since 2010, she 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. The disc was named “Recording of the Year 2013” by BBC Music. Her second Decca release, on which she plays Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with the Czech Philharmonic, topped the U.S. classical chart. Weilerstein released her fifth album on Decca in September 2016, playing Shostakovich’s two cello concertos with the Bavarian Radio Symphony under Pablo Heras-Casado, in performances recorded live the previous season.
Weilerstein has appeared with all the foremost orchestras of the United States and Europe, collaborating with conductors including Gustavo Dudamel, Christoph Eschenbach, Alan Gilbert, Manfred Honeck, Marek Janowski, Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Yuri Temirkanov, and David Zinman. Her major career milestones include an emotionally tumultuous account of Elgar’s concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic and Daniel Barenboim in Oxford, England, for the orchestra’s 2010 European Concert, which was televised live and subsequently released on DVD by EuroArts. Other highlights of that time include her debut at the BBC Proms in 2010.
Committed to expanding the cello repertoire, Weilerstein is an ardent champion of new music. She gave the New York premiere of Matthias Pintscher’s Reflections on Narcissus, and 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 2008 Caramoor Festival, she gave the world premiere of Lera Auerbach’s 24 Preludes for Violoncello and Piano with the composer at the keyboard. Joseph Hallman, a 2014 Grammy Award nominee, has also written multiple works for Weilerstein.
Weilerstein has appeared at major music festivals throughout the world, including Aspen, Edinburgh, Jerusalem Chamber Music, La Jolla Summer Fest, Mostly Mozart, Salzburg, 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 also performs with her parents, Donald and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, as the Weilerstein Trio.
The cellist is the winner of both Lincoln Center’s 2008 Martin E. Segal prize for exceptional achievement and the 2006 Leonard Bernstein Award. She received an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2000 and was selected for two prestigious young artists programs in the 2000/2001 season.
A graduate of the Young Artist Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Richard Weiss, the cellist also holds a degree in history from Columbia University. In 2008, Weilerstein, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was nine, became a Celebrity Advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
In 1891, Antonín Dvořák was offered the directorship of the New York Conservatory. After some hesitation, the composer accepted this challenge – which was interesting in both artistic and financial terms – and the next year sailed with his family across the Atlantic. Beyond leading the institution, his duties included teaching composition, and he also had the ambition of laying down the ideological foundations of American art music. Dvořák spent more than two-and-a-half years in America and wrote important instrumental works there. These include, in addition to his String Quartet No. 12 in F Major “American”, his most often played orchestral compositions, namely, Symphony No. 9 in E Minor “From the New World” and the work that opens this evening, Cello Concerto in B Minor.
Dvořák completed his only concert work for the cello whilst still in New York, but reworked its conclusion on returning to his homeland. Although the work adopts the traditional three-movement concerto form, it is conceived rather symphonically. It starts with an extensive orchestral introduction, presenting the two contrasting themes of the first movement, which is in loose sonata form. The cello then resolutely introduces a new exposition of the first theme, which the soloist continues to work with, until the second theme is outlined. The sonata development is very brief and the recapitulation, full of virtuoso runs for the solo instrument, has also been treated very freely by the composer. The second movement takes a symmetric ternary form with a dramatic middle section and lyrical outer sections. Here the writing for the cello is characterised by semitone “sighs” and numerous double-stops. The final movement is a rondo and has been read as a joyful harbinger of the composer’s return to the motherland. Immediately upon its premiere, Dvořák’s Cello Concerto gained significant popularity and to this day continues to be a favourite in the repertoires of the world’s greatest cellists.
For the English composer Edward Elgar, the composition originally entitled Variations on an Original Theme – the name Enigma was added later – meant a breakthrough in his career. Elgar dedicated it “to my friends pictured within”. This musical cryptogram has now been deciphered except for an enigma concerning one variation. The main theme came into being accidentally when Elgar sat at the piano, improvising, and his wife asked him to play again a melody which caught her attention. Each variation is a musical sketch of a member of his circle of friends and family, beginning with his wife’s initials C. A. E. – Caroline Alice Elgar – in the first variation. Elgar himself hinted at a second, musical enigma, a tune which does not itself appear in the variations but of which the theme is the counterpoint. The precise nature of the implied puzzle remains unknown. Enigma was premiered on 19 June 1899 at St. James Hall in London by Hans Richter.
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