By Paula Mlyn
December 29, 2010 - 12:30 pm
Classical mandolin artist Avi Avital has been recognized as one of the world's most exciting musical entrepreneurs, building a fresh legacy for an instrument with antiquated roots in the folk tradition through virtuosic performance and exciting new repertoire.
On December 1, 2010, Mr. Avital was nominated for a Grammy® Award for Best Instrumental Soloist with Ensemble for his performance of Avner Dorman's Mandolin Concerto, commissioned by Mr. Avital in 2006, and recorded in 2010 with the New York-based Metropolis Ensemble, conducted by Andrew Cyr. This nomination marks the first time a mandolin soloist has been nominated for a Grammy® Award in a classical music category.
Praised by the New York Times for his "Exquisitely sensitive playing" and doing "everything you never dreamt a mandolin could do... truly breathtaking in virtuosity and dedication" (Haaretz Daily), Avital's commitment to expanding the horizon of the mandolin and bringing it to new audiences, and his curiosity and engagement with all aspects and genres of music, has made him one of the most creative and versatile young musicians today.
Avital says, "The exciting part of being a classical mandolin player is that it opens a wide field for creative freedom. When I commission new pieces and engage with different musical styles, I feel that I am bringing to light new faces of this unique instrument, uncovering what is hiding there. It has been my mission to expand the expressive abilities of the mandolin to the fullest. And it keeps surprising."
Since 2002, Avital has been actively collaborating with composers, commissioning dozens of new works dedicated to him and his mandolin. His commissions have included eight mandolin concertos and numerous solo and chamber works, including a concerto by renowned Georgian composer Josef Bardanashvili, which he premiered with the National Symphony Orchestra of Georgia. Avital approached Avner Dorman to write his mandolin concerto in 2006. For Dorman, the chance to discover the expressive possibilities of a new instrument was an inspirational challenge. Avital says "Avner Dorman ingeniously packs all the places and associations that the mandolin evokes into the work. He uses elements of bluegrass, Middle Eastern sounds, Russian folk music and mixes them up with his own original language to create this enchanted concerto."
Avital's Grammy® nominated performance is featured on a recording containing three other concertos by Avner Dorman on the Naxos American Classics label, conducted by Andrew Cyr with the Metropolis Ensemble.
David Hurwitz of Classical Today gave the recording his highest rating, stating "Avner Dorman is a major compositional talent. In the Mandolin Concerto, he finds more timbrel variety in this recalcitrant instrument than you would ever believe possible, and it seems to have been conceived with its potential in mind so as to turn any limitations to maximum expressive advantage. Soloist Avi Avital wails away at his mandolin as if his life depended on it." Allan Kozinn of The New York Times wrote, "In the Mandolin Concerto, the colorful solo line, played with stunning agility by Avi Avital, draws on all the usual mandolin techniques-chordal tremolandos, singing melodies-and adds bent pitches, high-velocity scampering (against sliding violin figures) and dynamic nuance."
Born in Israel in 1978, Avi Avital has performed widely in Israel, Europe, the US, and Asia. This season, he makes classical appearances in Italy, Germany, and the US, including recent concerts at Zankel Hall with Sir Simon Rattle and the Ensemble ACJW, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at Alice Tully Hall, and the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra. He has played with leading orchestras including the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, I Pomeriggi Musicali di Milano, Rostov State Theatre Orchestra in Russia, The National Symphony of Latvia, Metropolis Ensemble New York, Israel Camerata Jerusalem, and Orchestra Milano Classica, collaborating with prominent musicians including, Mstislav Rostropovich, soprano Dawn Upshaw, and others.
Since 2004, he has also performed regularly with the renowned clarinetist and klezmer specialist Giora Feidman, with whom he appeared at International Youth Day in Köln in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI. He appears on recordings of both classical and klezmer albums for labels such as SONY Classical, Deutsche Grammophon, Naxos, Albany Records, Mode Records NY, and La Discantica. Avi Avital received the German ECHO prize for his recording with David Orlowsky's Klezmorim, released by SONY Classical. He was also awarded the prestigious Doris and Mori Arkin Prize for Mandolin at the 2007 Aviv Competitions.
Avi Avital is a graduate of the Jerusalem Music Academy and Conservatorio Cesare Pollini of Padova, Italy.
Avi Avital web site
Avi Avital on Facebook
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