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Celebrated cellist plays Vail

Caramie Schnell
cschnell@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
Christian Steiner/Special to the Vail DailyCellist Alisa Weilerstein will play with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Vail Saturday night
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VAIL, Colorado –Alisa Weilerstein, who plays in Vail Saturday night, says her first cello may have been made out of painted cereal boxes, but it planted a seed nonetheless. She was only four years old when she began clamoring for a real cello.

To say she had an affinity for the real instrument would be an understatement. She performed her first public concert six months after getting it. By age 13, she was playing Tchaikovsky’s “Rococo” Variations with the Cleveland Orchestra and two years later, she made her Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Youth Symphony.

People often ask Weilerstein if her parents, also musicians, “pushed her” into her musical career. She usually laughs.



If anything, she was pushing her parents, she said.

“It’ll sound strange, but at that time I felt as if I’d waited my whole long 14-year-old life to get out there and play professionally,” Weilerstein said during a phone interview from her home in New York City. “I was a very ambitious and different child.”



Weilerstein will perform with The Philadelphia Orchestra Saturday night in Vail for the Philadelphia’s final Bravo! performance.

Now 27, Weilerstein is quite familiar with the amphitheater, having performed there a handful of times. She made her debut in Vail at the Amphitheater when she was only 18, playing the Elgar cello concerto.

“I just had a fantastic time,” she said. “It’s a beautiful place to play and its also one of my favorite pieces to play. It’s a very beautiful memory.”



Saturday night Weilerstein will perform Bloch’s Schelomo, Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra.

“It’s a wonderful, very passionate piece,” said Bravo! Artistic Director Eugenia Zukerman. “And that’s what sets Alisa apart from other cellists – her incredible passion, and the way she becomes one with her instrument. She is just absolutely extraordinary.”

Originally born in Switzerland, composer Ernest Bloch came to the U.S. in 1916 with a number of Jewish-themed works. The most popular from what’s called his “Jewish cycle” is Schelomo, which means Solomon in Hebrew.

“Bloch had been working on a setting of Ecclesiastes 1:2-9 since the outbreak of war in 1914, hearing in Solomon’s ancient words a voice of profound equanimity in the midst of war’s turmoil,” according to the Bravo! program.

Originally Bloch intended the piece for voice and orchestra, but then he met cellist Alexander Barjansky, which caused him to reconsider.

“Why not use my Ecclesiastes material, but instead of a human voice, limited by a text, employ an infinitely grander and more profound voice that could speak all languages – that of a cello?” Bloch explained in a 1933 program note.

The piece, which Zukerman calls “impassioned and mournful in a way,” is punctuated by extended, brooding cello solos. Meanwhile the orchestra intervenes dramatically, something Weilerstein is looking forward to experiencing, she said.

“It’s such a fantastic orchestra part and I can’t wait to hear them play it. They’re such an expressive, strong orchestra.”

What: Cellist Alisa Weilerstein performs with The Philadelphia Orchestra

Where: Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail

When: 6 p.m., Saturday

Cost: $23/$63/$85 based on seating

More information: Visit http://www.vaildance.org or call 877-812-5700

High Life editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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