When the young American cellist Alisa Weilerstein first appeared with Orpheus in 2010, her genius was beyond question—a quality the MacArthur Foundation confirmed the next year when they awarded her a Fellowship (a.k.a. “genius grant”) and declared her “a consummate performer, combining technical precision with impassioned musicianship.” While Schumann’s Cello Concerto is the product of a brilliant composer on the brink of insanity, bright talents found their voices early in Mendelssohn’s refreshing Nocturno for winds, Webern’s aphoristic Five Movements for strings, and Schubert’s elegant symphonic salute to the powerful influences of Rossini, Haydn and Mozart.


MENDELSSOHN: Nocturno for Winds

SCHUMANN: Concerto for Cello

WEBERN: Five Movements for Strings

SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 6


“Conceived as an unbroken span without pause between movements, it is a curious concerto, technically demanding yet resolutely unshowy. In unsympathetic hands this can be a thankless task, but was thrillingly realized by Alisa Weilerstein, who showed an uncanny ability to approach the notes on the page as if they were a code for unlocking the composer’s precarious state of mind. Few soloists are bold enough to attempt the beginning quite as slowly, or the conclusion quite as fast, as Schumann seemingly intended. Yet Weilerstein brilliantly negotiated the sudden mood swings in which passages of buoyant, breezy confidence collapse into periods of painful introspection.”

-The Guardian, January 2016

Learn more about Alisa Weilerstein, cello »

More upcoming performances

Mozart’s “Gran Partita” (92Y)

December 7, 2019 | 8:00PM
Kaufmann Concert Hall at 92nd Street Y
New York, NY

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Orpheus Insight | Ronnie Bauch, violin

Whenever Orpheus performs one of Schubert’s symphonies, I am always reminded of the fact that none of these works were published or performed publicly during Schubert’s brief lifetime, and that so much of the music that we revere today was ignored, dismissed or consigned to the trash heap of history by an unknowing or fickle public. While the Sixth was actually the first of Schubert’s symphonies to receive a documented public performance, just a few months after his death, it was not performed again until the 1870s, nearly half a century later.  

If Beethoven, as the first real entrepreneur musician, can be considered to be the “patron saint” of Orpheus, then Schubert must be considered the “spiritual angel” of the group: the greatest songwriter in history whose life and music foreshadowed the lyrical and Bohemian spirit of the 1960s that so inspired our founding members. It was no accident that one of the group’s signature pieces from the very beginning was Schubert’s expressive and poetic Symphony No. 5. 

While Schubert’s Fifth Symphony is Mozartean in scope, the Sixth clearly embraces the ethos of late Haydn and Beethoven, along with a little Rossini, who was the rage in Vienna at the time.  The Haydn and Beethoven influences, for example, grace the first movement, especially in the grand opening and the wind chorus that ushers in the Allegro. While the theme of the second movement is pure Schubert, there are definite hints of the “Italian” style in the both the orchestration and accompaniment figures. The scherzo, one of Schubert’s finest, is pure Beethoven. The witty and energetic finale seems to unify all of these elements and at the same time presages Schubert’s later work in in the same key of C major, his monumental Ninth Symphony.  Shortly after the completion of the Sixth Symphony, Schubert began work on two other symphonies that he abandoned before completion.  One of these, his Eighth—now exceedingly popular and known as the “Unfinished”—will appear on an Orpheus program for the first time in our 45-year history, during the 2017-18 season.