Posse of Performers

The Festival-Brat Pack

Two performers whose Aspen Music Festival and School histories date to their childhoods return as thirtysomethings to perform.

By Andrew Travers November 1, 2014 Published in the Holiday 2014 issue of Aspen Sojourner

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Orli Shaham on piano with her husband, David Robinson, conducting.

A Lisa Weilerstein and Orli Shaham began spending summers at the Aspen Music Festival and School when they were still in diapers. They’re some of the latest so-called festival brats to develop into world-renowned musicians, and they’re returning to Harris Concert Hall this winter for the Music Festival’s Winter Music Series.

Weilerstein, thirty-two, grew up at the festival, where her parents—Vivian, a pianist, and Donald, a violinist—were on the faculty for twenty-five years and where they are still frequent guest performers. Spending childhood summers here, she began serious cello study under the late, legendary Dorothy DeLay at age thirteen. Weilerstein and her brother, Joshua, a conductor, have both gone on to successful careers. Alisa was awarded a Macarthur “genius” grant in 2011. The following summer, the whole musical family performed together in Aspen as the Weilerstein Quartet.

Shaham, thirty-nine, likewise was one of a pair of musical siblings whose summer stomping ground was the music school campus. Her father, physicist Jacob Shaham, spent summers at the Aspen Center for Physics, while Orli and her brother, Gil, a violinist, studied at the music school. She began performing piano professionally while still a teenager and spent summers here nearly every year until her mid-twenties.

Both Weilerstein and Shaham have frequently graced Aspen Music Festival stages as their stars have risen. “They’re constantly giving us different aspects of their musical personality,” says Music Festival artistic advisor Asadour Santourian. “It’s a bit familiar, a bit new, and it’s a musical portrait of the artist. … To witness the growth and development of a young musician into a fluent and communicative artist is one of the greatest pleasures of working here.”

Weilerstein (Feb. 12) will play four compositions in an unaccompanied cello concert, with two baroque Bach suites bracketed by Golijov’s “Omaramor” (an “amuse-bouche,” in Santourian’s words) and Kodaly’s cello sonata.

“She is a curious intellectual and a warm performer,” says Santourian. “Both with an orchestra and alone, her performances are always about a chemical reaction of works.”
Shaham (Feb. 19) is planning an unconventional evening built around Brahms, juxtaposing his work with others’. She’ll use the composer’s final two piano pieces, interspersed with an homage to Brahms by Brett Dean, a new work by Avner Dorman, and an intermezzo piece by Bruce Adolphe titled “My Inner Brahms.” Shaham is known to offer commentary during her performances, walking an audience through what she’s up to on stage.
The winter series closes with pianist Vladimir Feltsman (March 14) in a recital of three Schumann works.

The Music Festival began the winter performance series in 1993, after opening Harris Hall. Beginning with six to eight concerts over the season, the festival has since winnowed it down to three showcases aimed at giving the Music Fest faithful a winter fix.

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