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Friday, March 11—Sunday, March 13, 2022

Friday, March 11—Sunday, March 13, 2022
Orchestra Hall
2 hours

Peter Oundjian returns to lead a program highlighting a diverse set of voices, including Joan Tower, celebrated as "one of the most successful woman composers of all time," and William Grant Still, known as the "dean" of African American composers; plus a new work by Joel Thompson inspired by James Baldwin's Notes of a Native Son, a collection of essays tackling issues of race in America and Europe.


Music for Cello and Orchestra
Symphony No. 1, Op. 9
To Awaken the Sleeper


Peter Oundjian


Peter Oundjian has been privileged to share his love of music with audiences for over five decades.

2017-18 marked Oundjian’s fourteenth and final season as Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO). His appointment in 2004 reinvigorated the orchestra with recordings, tours, and acclaimed innovative programming, as well as extensive audience growth. Under his leadership, the ensemble underwent a transformation that significantly strengthened its presence in the world. In 2017, he led the orchestra on a major tour of Israel and Europe, which included a residency at the Prague Spring International Music Festival and a performance at the famed Wiener Konzerthaus. In 2008 and 2011, the TSO played sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall. Oundjian is now honored by the TSO with the title of Conductor Emeritus.

From 2012 to 2018, Oundjian was also Music Director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO). Under his baton, the orchestra toured China, the USA, and across Europe. Together they recorded albums under Chandos and Sony and presented Britten’s monumental War Requiem at the 2018 BBC Proms, a performance that will last as one of the most truly memorable experiences of his life.

Born in Toronto and raised in Surrey, England, Oundjian grew up performing frequently as a violinist and choral singer, highlighted by three recordings under the baton of Benjamin Britten. During his teenage years, Oundjian frequently played concertos, recitals, and chamber music throughout England. He attended the Royal College of Music in London where he was awarded the Tagore Gold Medal in 1975, presented to him by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

That same year, at the encouragement of Pinchas Zukerman, Oundjian entered the Juilliard School, where he studied with Ivan Galamian, Itzhak Perlman, and Dorothy DeLay. In 1980, Oundjian won First Prize in the Viña del Mar International Violin Competition, as well as the Pro Musicis Award in New York. In 1981, he joined the Tokyo String Quartet as the first violinist. Over the next 14 years, the group performed in concert halls and festivals in every corner of the world, and recorded more than 35 albums, several of which received Grammy nominations. In 1995, Oundjian was forced to step away from the violin, having developed focal dystonia in his left hand.

Merely a month after stepping down from his post with the Tokyo String Quartet, Oundjian’s friend and mentor André Previn invited him to share the podium at the 50th Anniversary concert of the Caramoor International Music Festival. Oundjian had studied conducting while at the Juilliard School, and had taken part in an historic series of masterclasses with Herbert von Karajan.

At the age of 39, Oundjian turned his focus to reigniting his former passion for conducting. After several years of playing through the worsening condition in his left hand, making music from the podium was a liberating experience. He was excited to bring music to life with the sensitivities he had absorbed as a chamber musician: attention to detail, pure acoustic balance, and an understanding of how to harness and unleash music’s inherent spontaneity. To this day, his drive to create an immediate, vibrant emotional experience influences every step of his creative process, from crafting an interpretation, to fostering an engaging rehearsal environment, to every adrenaline-filled performance.

Oundjian has appeared at some of the great annual gatherings of music and music-lovers: the BBC Proms, the Edinburgh Festival, the Prague Spring Festival, and the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Mozart Festival, for which he was Artistic Director from 2003 to 2005. He has also made numerous appearances through his career with the LA Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Baltimore, Atlanta, Chicago, and Boston Symphony Orchestras. On the global circuit, he has performed with the Sydney Symphony, Japan’s NHK Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and the Zürich Tonhalle.

Oundjian was Principal Guest Conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra from 2006 to 2010 and Artistic Director of the Caramoor International Music Festival in New York from 1997 to 2007. He was also the Music Director of the Amsterdam Sinfonietta from 1998-2002.

Education has been as much of a joy and passion for Oundjian in his life as any other musical pursuit. He has always carried with him profound gratitude towards his own mentors, which include Yehudi Menuhin, Andre Previn, Dorothy DeLay, Robert Mann, Leon Fleisher, Itzhak Perlman, and Pinchas Zukerman. The impact of his own mentors on his musical life instilled in him a longing to inspire the next generations of musicians. At the age of 25, he became a visiting professor at the Yale School of Music, and has mentored young violinists, conductors, and chamber groups at Yale for 38 years. In 2016, he was appointed Principal Conductor of the Yale Philharmonia. He earned the university’s Sanford Medal for distinguished service to music in 2013, and also holds an Honorary Doctorate from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

The 2018-19 season marked an exciting chapter for Oundjian. Along with continuing his role at Yale and conducting 10 great orchestras across the globe, he began his tenure as Music Director of the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder. He also received a JUNO Award for Classical Album of the Year: Large Ensemble, for the TSO’s 2018 album Vaughan Williams: Orchestral Works, and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Classical Compendium for the same album. Oundjian was also nominated for a BBC Music Magazine Award for the RSNO’s 2018 album John Adams: Naïve and Sentimental Music & Absolute Jest.

Alisa Weilerstein


Alisa Weilerstein is one of the foremost cellists of our time. Known for her consummate artistry, emotional investment and rare interpretive depth, she was recognized with a MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship in 2011. Today her career is truly global in scope, taking her to the most prestigious international venues for solo recitals, chamber concerts, and concerto collaborations with all the preeminent conductors and orchestras worldwide. “Weilerstein is a throwback to an earlier age of classical performers: not content merely to serve as a vessel for the composer’s wishes, she inhabits a piece fully and turns it to her own ends,” marvels the New York Times. “Weilerstein’s cello is her id. She doesn’t give the impression that making music involves will at all. She and the cello seem simply to be one and the same,” agrees the Los Angeles Times. As the UK’s Telegraph put it, “Weilerstein is truly a phenomenon.”

Bach’s six suites for unaccompanied cello figure prominently in Weilerstein’s current programming. Over the past two seasons, she has given rapturously received live accounts of the complete set on three continents, with recitals in New York, Washington DC, Boston, Los Angeles, Berkeley and San Diego; at Aspen and Caramoor; in Tokyo, Osaka, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, London, Manchester, Aldeburgh, Paris and Barcelona; and for a full-capacity audience at Hamburg’s iconic new Elbphilharmonie. During the global pandemic, she has further cemented her status as one of the suites’ leading exponents. Released in April 2020, her Pentatone recording of the complete set became a Billboard bestseller and was named “Album of the Week” by the UK’s Sunday Times. As captured in Vox’s YouTube series, her insights into Bach’s first G-major prelude have been viewed almost 1.5 million times. During the first weeks of the lockdown, she chronicled her developing engagement with the suites on social media, fostering an even closer connection with her online audience by streaming a new movement each day in her innovative #36DaysOfBach project. As the New York Times observed in a dedicated feature, by presenting these more intimate accounts alongside her new studio recording, Weilerstein gave listeners the rare opportunity to learn whether “the pressures of a pandemic [can] change the very sound a musician makes, or help her see a beloved piece in a new way.”

Earlier in the 2019-20 season, as Artistic Partner of the Trondheim Soloists, Weilerstein joined the Norwegian orchestra in London, Munich and Bergen for performances including Haydn’s two cello concertos, as featured on their acclaimed 2018 release, Transfigured Night. She also performed ten more concertos by Schumann, Saint-Saëns, Elgar, Strauss, Shostakovich, Britten, Barber, Bloch, Matthias Pintscher and Thomas Larcher, with the London Symphony Orchestra, Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne, Tokyo’s NHK Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, and the Houston, Detroit and San Diego symphonies. In recital, besides making solo Bach appearances, she reunited with her frequent duo partner, Inon Barnatan, for Brahms and Shostakovich at London’s Wigmore Hall, Milan’s Sala Verdi and Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. To celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary, she and the Israeli pianist performed the composer’s five cello sonatas in Cincinnati and Scottsdale, and joined Guy Braunstein and the Dresden Philharmonic for Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, as heard on the duo’s 2019 Pentatone recording with Stefan Jackiw, Alan Gilbert and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

Committed to expanding the cello repertoire, Weilerstein is an ardent champion of new music. She has premiered two important new concertos, giving Pascal Dusapin’s Outscape “the kind of debut most composers can only dream of” (Chicago Tribune) with the co-commissioning Chicago Symphony in 2016 and proving herself “the perfect guide” (Boston Globe) to Matthias Pintscher’s cello concerto un despertar with the co-commissioning Boston Symphony the following year. She has since reprised Dusapin’s concerto with the Stuttgart and Paris Opera Orchestras and Pintscher’s with the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne and with the Danish Radio Symphony and Cincinnati Symphony, both under the composer’s leadership. It was also under Pintscher’s direction that she gave the New York premiere of his Reflections on Narcissus at the New York Philharmonic’s inaugural 2014 Biennial, before reuniting with him to revisit the work at London’s BBC Proms. She has worked extensively with Osvaldo Golijov, who rewrote Azul for cello and orchestra for her New York premiere performance at the opening of the 2007 Mostly Mozart Festival. Since then, she has played the work with orchestras around the world, besides frequently programming his Omaramor for solo cello. Grammy nominee Joseph Hallman has written multiple compositions for her, including a cello concerto that she premiered with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and a trio that she premiered on tour with Barnatan and clarinetist Anthony McGill. At the 2008 Caramoor festival, she premiered Lera Auerbach’s 24 Preludes for Violoncello and Piano with the composer at the keyboard, and the two subsequently reprised the work at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, Washington’s Kennedy Center and for San Francisco Performances.

Weilerstein’s recent Bach and Transfigured Night recordings expand her already celebrated discography. Earlier releases include the Elgar and Elliott Carter cello concertos with Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin, named “Recording of the Year 2013” by BBC Music, which made her the face of its May 2014 issue. Her next album, on which she played Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with the Czech Philharmonic, topped the U.S. classical chart, and her 2016 recording of Shostakovich’s cello concertos with the Bavarian Radio Symphony and Pablo Heras-Casado proved “powerful and even mesmerizing” (San Francisco Chronicle). She and Barnatan made their duo album debut with sonatas by Chopin and Rachmaninoff in 2015, a year after she released Solo, a compilation of unaccompanied 20th-century cello music that was hailed as an “uncompromising and pertinent portrait of the cello repertoire of our time” (ResMusica, France). Solo’s centerpiece is Kodály’s Sonata for Solo Cello, a signature work that Weilerstein revisits on the soundtrack of If I Stay, a 2014 feature film starring Chloë Grace Moretz in which the cellist makes a cameo appearance as herself.

Weilerstein has appeared with all the major orchestras of the United States, Europe and Asia, collaborating with conductors including Marin Alsop, Daniel Barenboim, Jiří Bělohlávek, Semyon Bychkov, Thomas Dausgaard, Sir Andrew Davis, Gustavo Dudamel, Sir Mark Elder, Alan Gilbert, Giancarlo Guerrero, Bernard Haitink, Pablo Heras-Casado, Marek Janowski, Paavo Järvi, Lorin Maazel, Cristian Măcelaru, Zubin Mehta, Ludovic Morlot, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Peter Oundjian, Rafael Payare, Donald Runnicles, Yuri Temirkanov, Michael Tilson Thomas, Osmo Vänskä, Joshua Weilerstein, Simone Young and David Zinman. In 2009, she was one of four artists invited by Michelle Obama to participate in a widely celebrated and high-profile classical music event at the White House, featuring student workshops hosted by the First Lady and performances in front of an audience that included President Obama and the First Family. A month later, Weilerstein toured Venezuela as soloist with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra under Dudamel, since when she has made numerous return visits to teach and perform with the orchestra as part of its famed El Sistema music education program.

Born in 1982, Alisa Weilerstein discovered her love for the cello at just two and a half, when she had chicken pox and her grandmother assembled a makeshift set of instruments from cereal boxes to entertain her. Although immediately drawn to the Rice Krispies box cello, Weilerstein soon grew frustrated that it didn’t produce any sound. After persuading her parents to buy her a real cello at the age of four, she developed a natural affinity for the instrument and gave her first public performance six months later. At 13, in 1995, she made her professional concert debut, playing Tchaikovsky’s “Rococo” Variations with the Cleveland Orchestra, and in March 1997 she made her first Carnegie Hall appearance with the New York Youth Symphony. A graduate of the Young Artist Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Richard Weiss, Weilerstein also holds a degree in history from Columbia University. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at nine years old, and is a staunch advocate for the T1D community, serving as a consultant for the biotechnology company eGenesis and as a Celebrity Advocate for JDRF, the world leader in T1D research. Born into a musical family, she is the daughter of violinist Donald Weilerstein and pianist Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, and the sister of conductor Joshua Weilerstein. She is married to Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare, with whom she has a young child.

George Shirley



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Packages start at just $105


He lingered effectively over the moodiest movements, seeking out nuances of dynamics and phrasing that helped bring subtle details into focus. ”

—The Baltimore Sun (of Peter Oundjian)
Alisa Weilerstein en Yoram Ish-Hurwitz spelen Chopin | Podium Witteman
Artwork for Orchestra Hall
Presented at
Orchestra Hall
3711 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI
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