Alisa Weilerstein returns to ‘second home’ |

Alisa Weilerstein returns to ‘second home’

Alisa Weilerstein will kick off the Aspen Music Festival and School's Winter Music Series with a solo recital at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at Harris Concert Hall. Tickets are $50
Gerardo Antonio Sanchez Torres |

If You Go...

Who: Alisa Weilerstein

What: Solo recital

When: 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 12

Where: Harris Concert Hall in Aspen

How Much: $50

On the Radio...

Can’t make it to Aspen? The recital will be broadcast live by Colorado Public Radio. Listen on 90.5 FM.

A few days ago, world renowned cellist Alisa Weilerstein was performing in Taipei, Taiwan. Today, she is in Tokyo. But next week, she gets to return to Aspen, her “second home,” to kick off the Aspen Music Festival and School’s (AMFS) Winter Music Series.

Weilerstein’s parents, violinist Donald Weilerstein and pianist Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, were both on faculty at the AMFS during Alisa’s childhood, meaning she spent every summer of her adolescence in the mountain town.

“I was there just as sort of an Aspen brat, just as a little kid tagging along,” she said of her earliest years. “But when I was 13, that was my first summer as a student. I remember, of course, so many amazing concerts by the faculty and the guests that came. I took so many master classes with some amazing artists. I made some of my best and longest-lasting friendships there. It was a very important, formative place for me. It really was my second home.”

Because of her strong ties to Aspen, Weilerstein is especially looking forward to performing a solo recital there at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.

“You always get more butterflies to play for people in your home than you do anywhere else, I think,” she said.

AMFS President and CEO Alan Fletcher said the people at the festival feel just as excited to have Weilerstein back.

“We have seen her grow up, and now she’s one of the most important cellists in the world,” he said. “We always look forward to what she’s going to do.”

Weilerstein’s program will consist of pieces by Golijov, Bach and Kodaly — she said she wanted to create a “Bach sandwich.”

“As far as the solo cello repertoire is concerned, you have the Bach suites, and I’m going to play two of them in the program, but then you have this kind of vacuum,” she said. “In the 19th century there wasn’t very much that was really good that was written for solo cello. And then this pattern was broken completely by the Kodaly solo sonata, which was an incredibly groundbreaking piece for its time — and even now it should be considered groundbreaking. So I wanted to show the evolution of the cello as a solo instrument and really coming into the fore in the 20th century as a solo instrument.”

Weilerstein said the low quantity of cello music in comparison to instruments like the violin or piano is made up for in the quality, and she has never wanted to play anything else from the time she was 2 and a half years old.

That was the age Weilerstein decided she wanted to be a cellist. She was ill with chicken pox, and her grandmother tried entertaining her with a makeshift set of instruments from cereal boxes. Weilerstein was immediately drawn to the Rice Krispies box cello, and when the toy’s inauthenticity began to bore her, she begged her parents for a real cello.

“I don’t know what drew me to the cello, but I do know that I was absolutely sure that I wanted that and only that,” she said. “It was entirely intuitive. But the first thing my mother said to me when I asked for a cello was, ‘Oh, you’re a little too young.’ But then I kept asking, so then I started lessons.”

Weilerstein began playing her first real cello at 4, and she said the intuition that drew her to the instrument proved right for her in adulthood.

“I think it is the most soulful instrument in terms of its range and character,” she said. “And that suits me just fine.”

Winter Music Series

The AMFS has been putting on its Winter Music Series for about 20 years, after the construction of the Harris Concert Hall, Fletcher said.

“Before then, we didn’t have a venue that could be opened in the winter,” he said.

This year’s series consists of two more performances after Weilerstein’s: piano recitals by Orli Shaham and Vladimir Feltsman.

Shaham’s parents were physicists who regularly came to the Aspen Center for Physics when Shaham was young. That’s when she became aware of the AMFS, and she participated as a student for the first time at 10 years old. She’s come back as either a student or guest artist almost every year since, Fletcher said.

For her Winter Music Series recital at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 19, Shaham will perform pieces by Bach, Bruce Adolphe, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann and Dorman.

“Orli is a brilliant person and an extremely fun person, so her programs always have a real spark to them,” Fletcher said.

Then at 6:30 p.m. on March 14, pianist Vladimir Feltsman will perform in recital three pieces by Schumann.

“This is a truly standard repertoire program for winter, and then he’s going to do an adventurous set of recitals in the summer,” said Fletcher, referencing the AMFS’s recently announced 2015 summer program with the theme “Dreams of Travel.” “As far as I’m concerned, he can play anything and it would be brilliant.”

For more information on the AMFS’s Winter Music Series and summer season, visit Tickets and passes are on sale for all performances.

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