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Avi Avital, mandolin & Sérgio and Odair Assad, guitar
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Avi Avital is an Israeli mandolinist, composer, and performer best known for his renditions of well-known Baroque and folk music, much of which was originally written for other instruments. Acknowledged by The New York Times for his “exquisitely sensitive playing” and “stunning agility,” Avi Avital is the first mandolin player to receive a GRAMMY nomination in the category “Best Instrumental Soloist.” After a wildly successful performance with Schubert Club Mix in 2016 (view the video highlights here), we are delighted to welcome him back to hear another side of his playing.
Sérgio and Odair Assad are Brazilian-born brothers who have taken the classical guitar world by storm. Their exceptional artistry and uncanny ensemble playing come from both a family rich in Brazilian musical tradition and from studies with the guitar/lutenist Monina Távora (1921-2011), a disciple of Andrés Segovia. In addition to setting new performance standards, the Assads have played a major role in creating and introducing new music for two guitars. Their virtuosity has inspired a wide range of composers to write for them including Astor Piazzolla, Terry Riley, Radamés Gnattali, Marlos Nobre, and many others. The Assads last performed on our Music in the Park Series to a sold-out audience in May 2015. Hearing the musical talents of all three musicians together, all making their debuts on this series, will be a magical event.
The first mandolin soloist to be nominated for a classical Grammy, Avi Avital is one of the foremost ambassadors for his instrument. Passionate and “explosively charismatic” (New York Times) in live performance, he is a driving force behind the reinvigoration of the mandolin repertory. More than 90 contemporary compositions, 15 of them concertos, have been written for him, while his inspired re-imaginings of music for other instruments include the arrangements heard on his 2014 recording Between Worlds. Enhanced by his infectious spirit of adventure and the warm rapport he fosters with his audience, Avital’s championship of his instrument is taking the mandolin centre stage. “The exciting part of being a classical mandolin player,” he says, “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.”
Born in Be’er Sheva, southern Israel in 1978, Avital began learning the mandolin at the age of eight and soon joined the flourishing mandolin youth orchestra founded and directed by his charismatic teacher, Russian-born violinist Simcha Nathanson. He later graduated from the Jerusalem Music Academy and the Conservatorio Cesare Pollini in Padua, Italy, where he studied original mandolin repertoire with Ugo Orlandi. Winner of Israel’s prestigious Aviv Competition in 2007, Avital is the first mandolinist in the history of the competition to be so honoured. He plays on a mandolin made by Israeli luthier Arik Kerman.Continue Reading
Avital’s inspired music-making has electrified audiences in performances around the world including Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, London’s Wigmore and Royal Albert Halls, the Berlin Philharmonie, Zurich’s Tonhalle, Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana, Paris Philharmonie, Vienna Konzerthaus, New York’s Carnegie Hall (Zankel Hall), and with a live telecast on Arte, the Palais de Versailles. He has performed with international orchestras from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra to the Israel Philharmonic, and is a favourite on the international festival circuit, having appeared at the Aspen, Salzburg, Tanglewood, Spoleto, Ravenna, Cheltenham and Verbier Festivals, amongst
Current highlights include engagements with the Deutsche Symphonie Orchester Berlin/Koopman, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Mehta, Dresden Philharmonic, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra, Venice Baroque Orchestra, Kremerata Baltica, Australia Brandenburg Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal/Nagano, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Vänskä and a performance of Vivaldi The Four Seasons at the Hollywood Bowl.
Avital has partnered leading artists in a variety of genres, including Andreas Scholl, Juan Diego Flórez, Dawn Upshaw, Giora Feidman, Ray Chen, David Greilsammer, Mahan Esfahani, Richard Galliano, Ksenija Sidorova, percussionist Itamar Doari, and the Enso and Danish String Quartets. His latest collaboration with oud/bassist, Omer Avital draws on their shared musical heritage and combines a rich musical melting pot where the finesse of chamber music meets the raw emotional energy of jazz and world music. Avital meets Avital will be released on DG in 2017 and tours
internationally through the 2016-17 season.
Sérgio and Odair Assad
Brazilian-born brothers Sérgio and Odair Assad have set the benchmark for all other guitarists by creating a new standard of guitar innovation, ingenuity and expression.
Their exceptional artistry and uncanny ensemble playing come from both a family rich in Brazilian musical tradition and from studies with the guitar/lutenist Monina Távora (1921-2011), a disciple of Andrés Segovia. In addition to setting new performance standards, the Assads have played a major role in creating and introducing new music for two guitars. Their virtuosity has inspired a wide range of composers to write for them including Astor Piazzolla, Terry Riley, Radamés Gnattali, Marlos Nobre, Nikita Koshkin, Roland Dyens, Jorge Morel, Edino Krieger and Francisco Mignone.
Now Sérgio Assad is adding to their repertoire by composing music for the duo and for various musical partners both with Symphony Orchestra and in recitals. They have worked extensively with such renowned artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Fernando Suarez Paz, Paquito D’Rivera, Gidon Kremer and Dawn Upshaw.
The Assads began playing the guitar together at an early age and went on to study for seven years with Dona Monina. Their international career began with a major prize at the 1979 Young Artists Competition in Bratislava. Odair is based in Brussels where he teaches at Ecole Supérieure des Arts. Sérgio resides in San Francisco, where he is on the faculty of the SF Conservatory.Continue Reading
The Assad’s repertoire includes original music composed by Sérgio Assad and his re-workings of folk and jazz music as well as Latin music of almost every style. Their standard classical repertoire includes transcriptions of the great Baroque keyboard literature of Bach, Rameau and Scarlatti and adaptations of works by such diverse figures as Gershwin, Ginastera and Debussy. Their touring programs are always a compelling blend of styles, periods and cultures.
The Assads are also recognized as prolific recording artists, primarily for the Nonesuch and GHA labels. In 2001, Nonesuch Records released “Sérgio and Odair Assad Play Piazzolla,” which later won a Latin Grammy. Their seventh Nonesuch recording, released in the fall 2007, is called “Jardim Abandonado” after a piece by Antonio Carlos Jobim. It was nominated for Best Classical Album and Sérgio went on to win the Latin Grammy for his composition, “Tahhiyya Li Oussilina.”
A Nonesuch collaboration with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg in 2000 featured a collection of pieces based on traditional and Gypsy folk tunes from around the world. In 2003, Sérgio Assad wrote a triple concerto for this trio that has been performed with the orchestras of São Paulo, Seattle and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. In the summer of 2004, Sérgio & Odair arranged a very special tour featuring three generations of the Assad Family. The family presented a wide variety of Brazilian music featuring their father, Jorge Assad [1924-2011] on the mandolin and the voice of mother, Angelina Assad. GHA Records has released a live recording and a DVD of the Assad Family live at Brussels’ Palais des Beaux-Arts. In the 2006-2007 season, the Assad Brothers performed Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto Madrigal for Two Guitars” and Sérgio’s arrangement of Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. The Assads were also featured performers on James Newton Howard’s soundtrack to the movie “Duplicity,” starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. In the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, the brothers toured a project entitled “De Volta as Raizes” (Back to Our Roots) featuring Lebanese-American singer Christiane Karam, percussionist Jamey Haddad and composer/pianist Clarice Assad.
In February 2011, Odair Assad performed his first solo guitar concert tour in North America featuring concerts in New York and Montreal. Sergio Assad has written another concerto for his duo, called “Phases.” It was premiered with the Seattle Symphony in February 2011. In the meantime he has been nominated for yet two more Latin Classical Grammys in the Best Classical Composition Category for his piece for the LA Guitar Quartet and the Delaware Symphony entitled, “Interchange” and for “Maracaipe” for the Beijing Guitar Duo. In the fall of 2011, five of the members of the Assad family: Sergio, Odair, Badi, Clarice and Carolina – joined together again for another evening of new and favorite Brazilian works. Their tour included stops in Qatar, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands (to open the “Brazil Festival”) at The Amsterdam Concertgebouw and three concerts in Belgium with a finale at Le Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels.
The Assad Brothers collaboration with cellist Yo-Yo Ma is ongoing. In 2003 the Brazilian record “Obrigado Brazil” was released featuring Rosa Passos, Egberto Gismonti and Cyro Baptista. Sérgio arranged several of the works on the disc, which captured a Grammy in 2004. In 2009, the brothers were featured on Yo-Yo Ma’s chart topping release, “Songs of Joy & Peace,” which features other guest artists as diverse as James Taylor and Dave Brubeck. In the piece “Família” Yo-Yo plays Sérgio’s composition featuring mother, Angelina Assad, sister Badi and children Clarice, Rodrigo and Carolina. The release topped both the classical and the mainstream Billboard charts and won a Grammy for Best Classical Crossover. In April 2012, Sergio and Odair toured North America with Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Kathryn Stott, in a program of Latin American works as arranged by Sergio as well as some of his original compositions, highlighted by concerts at the new Smith Center in Las Vegas and Chicago’s Symphony Hall.
In October of 2012, Sérgio and Odair premiered a performance of a new duo guitar concerto written for them by Sergio’s daughter Clarice Assad, at the Pro-Musica Chamber Orchestra in Columbus, Ohio. Soon after, the brothers returned to the University of Arizona in Tucson as visiting artists with support from the D’Addario Family Foundation. They headlined the 4th International Tucson Guitar Festival with two performances at Holsclaw Hall and master classes for advanced guitar students. In the spring of 2013, Sergio and Odair planned another tour of their much loved trio with the inimitable Paquito D’Rivera as well as a record release of their project, “Dances from the New World.” In 2014, the brothers began a Brazilian Tour that celebrates 50 years of their career. In 2015, the tour continues, spanning a total of 27 Brazilian cities.
Date & Venue
Tuesday, February 20, 2018, 7:30pm & Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 10:30am
Ordway Concert Hall
Please join us one hour prior to the performance for a pre-concert talk.
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J.S. Bach- Sonata in E Major, BWV 1016 (Selections)
Joseph Haydn- Sonata No. 50 in D Major, Hob. XVI: 37
Claude Debussy- La plus que lente
Béla Bartók- Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56
Egberto Gismonti- Baiao malandro
Traditional Bulgarian/arr. Avital- Bucimis
Astor Piazzolla- Histoire du Tango
Marc Lavry- Three Jewish Dances, Opus 192
Three Brazilian Pieces
Jacob Bittencourt- Santa Morena
*All works arranged by S. Assad except where noted
Concerts are estimated to be approximately 2 hours with one intermission.
The words “superstar” and “mandolinist” still look odd next to each other. Yet in the classical world they are starting to be joined with some frequency…. Avi Avital who on Wednesday gave a performance of 18th-century Italian concertos at Zankel Hall with the Venice Baroque Orchestra....was nothing short of electric.New York Times
As performers, these two play like the close brothers they are. They pick up instantly on the other’s cues, respond as if intuitively and seem to be wired into the same operating system. What’s projected is a sort of ‘uber-guitar,’ two instruments and one brain.The Washington Post