Born in 1982, Alisa Weilerstein discovered her love for the cello at age two and a half, when her grandmother assembled makeshift instruments from cereal boxes to entertain her while she was ill with chicken pox. She persuaded her parents to buy her a real cello at the age of four, and she gave her first public performance six months later. At age thirteen, she played Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations for her Cleveland Orchestra debut, and in 1997 she made her first Carnegie Hall appearance, with the New York Youth Symphony. A graduate of the Young Artist Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Richard Weiss, Ms. Weilerstein also holds a degree in history from Columbia University. She received an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2000 and went on to be named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 2011.
An exclusive Decca Classics recording artist, Ms. Weilerstein released her fifth album on the label in September, featuring Shostakovich’s two cello concertos with the Bavarian Radio Symphony under Pablo Heras-Casado. Her 2016-17 season includes performances of Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites at Caramoor, in Washington DC, New York, and in London; a nine-city US tour with longtime recital partner Inon Barnatan and clarinetist Anthony McGill; and a spring tour of Europe with Mr. Barnatan. Ms. Weilerstein’s international concert schedule this season features performances of Britten’s Cello Symphony with the New World Symphony; Shostakovich's First Cello Concerto with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, the Netherlands Philharmonic, and the National Symphony; Prokofiev’s Sinfonia concertante with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and the Dallas Symphony; Schumann with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and on tour in Italy and Spain; Elgar with the Staatskapelle Weimar; Walton with Amsterdam’s Residentie Orkest; and Dvořák with the Minnesota Orchestra and the Sydney and Tokyo symphonies. The cellist also performs Henri Dutilleux’s Tout un monde lointain . . . with Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Orchestra, and gives the world premiere of Matthias Pintscher’s Cello Concerto with the Boston Symphony, who co-commissioned the piece for her.
In 2009, Ms. Weilerstein was invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to participate in a classical music event at the White House that included student workshops and concerts. She has toured Venezuela with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and Gustavo Dudamel, and she has taught and performed as part of its El Sistema music education program. In 2008 Ms. Weilerstein became a Celebrity Advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. She made her San Francisco Symphony debut in 2001.