Commingling and collaboration are a key aspect of Mobile. Land meets water. History meets future. Tradition meets innovation.
In a couple of weeks, a proven Azalea City cultural entity unites a pair of gifts for the community. That’s when cellist Robert deMaine and pianist Orion Weiss will form the centerpiece of the Alma and Anthony Fisher Memorial Concert of Mobile Chamber Music’s current season.
“These two musicians perform together occasionally, yet getting them both here required working with two managements. It was a challenge,” Mobile Chamber Music programmer Dan Silver said.
When they meet onstage at the University of South Alabama’s Laidlaw Performing Arts Center on Jan. 22 at 3 p.m., the program itself will be impressive. The duo’s talent exceeds it.
The Brahms, Janacek and Ravel on the bill are superb as is. Additionally, the show leads with original compositions by deMaine.
Robert DeMaine is principal cellist for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a lofty accomplishment in itself. The rest of his resume reads like a wishlist for aspiring classical musicians.
He studied at Juilliard, Eastman, Yale University and Germany’s Kronberg Academy. He was the first cellist ever to win grand prize at San Francisco’s Irving M. Klein International Competition for Strings. As a soloist he has collaborated with some of the world’s most prestigious conductors, including Leonard Slatkin, Gustavo Dudamel and Esa-Pekka Salonen.
DeMaine has appeared at Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, the Berlin Philharmonie, London’s Wigmore Hall, Vienna Konzerthaus, the Seoul Arts Center and Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall.
He spent 10 years as principal cellist for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He filled the same role for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Toronto Symphony and Norway’s Bergen Philharmonic.
DeMaine’s instrument? He performs on a cello made in 1684 by Antonio Stradivari.
Though younger than his concert mate, Orion Weiss is no less extraordinary. A student of Emanuel Ax at the Juilliard School, he has several awards to his credit including an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a Gilmore Young Artist Award. He was the Classical Recording Foundation’s Young Artist of the Year in September 2010 and premiered with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood.
Weiss has played Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, the Ravinia Festival and the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival among numerous other exalted venues. He made his 2005 European debut in a concert at Paris’ Musée du Louvre.
He has performed with the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic among others. Weiss is known for his love of chamber music, including performances with his wife, pianist Anna Polonsky.
“I think their concert will be memorable,” Silver said in wry understatement.
Tickets are $20, $10 for students. Season tickets are available at mobilechambermusic.org. Some tickets will be available at the door.
That Mobile Chamber Music has brought 56 years of these events to town is extraordinary. Its maintenance of such a stellar quality level is mind-boggling.
Like many local arts organizations Mobile Chamber Music has a tiny budget; its proven success is due to volunteers willing to contribute time and resources for the betterment of Mobile culture. Diligence alone lands these high-quality musicians in the midst of established tour schedules in order to keep costs low.
Silver would say there’s an amount of luck involved. It’s more like his very own characteristic combo meeting up for all our sakes.
A longtime math and statistics professor at the University of South Alabama, Silver carries heady curriculum vitae. A Yale alum, he’s given lectures from Japan to Germany and across the globe in his areas of mathematical specialty: topology and dynamics. He’s been published in Scientific American and deserves intellectual respect.
Silver is also artistic. He plays guitar and cello. He was a cartoonist for The Harbinger, an older Mobile alternative newspaper, where he pushed for a more open government and a healthier community through his drawings. He spent a decade as president of Mobile Chamber Music and has been vice president of programming for nearly 15 years since.
It’s easy to see why he was awarded a 2013 Greater Mobile Art Award for Volunteer. He was characteristically low-key about the fuss.
Silver’s wife and fellow professor Susan Williams has been neck deep in the activity every step of the way. She is also a driving force for Mobile Chamber Music and, in a far greater sense, for improving their town.
Williams and Silver aren’t just another pair merely combining forces in Mobile. They’re elevating it for the rest of us.
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