Mandolin Virtuoso Avi Avital Shines Alongside Brooklyn Rider at Beethoven Festival

Published December 19, 2023

Recognized for redefining the mandolin's classical presence, Avi Avital is making significant waves in the music world. His recent collaboration at the 2023 Beethoven Festival in Bonn involved a creative partnership with the string quartet Brooklyn Rider. Together, they delivered a remarkable performance that bridged historical compositions and modern pieces, spanning diverse cultural influences from Bach to Brazil.

A New Chapter for the Mandolin

Renowned Israeli mandolinist Avi Avital, born in 1978, took up the mandolin at the tender age of eight and pursued his passion through studies in Jerusalem and Italy. His exceptional talents led to a Grammy nomination in 2010, marking a significant milestone as the first for a mandolin player. Avital has been pivotal in bringing the mandolin, traditionally seen as an instrument for amateurs, into the spotlight of classical music. His mission has led him to commission over 100 new works, enriching the mandolin's repertoire. To celebrate the mandolin being named Germany's Instrument of the Year in 2023, Avital continues to advocate for its classical integration.

Brooklyn Rider: A String Quartet without Borders

The New York-based Brooklyn Rider is a string quartet that shares Avital's vision of blending the old with the new. Violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violist Nicholas Cords, and cellist Michael Nicolas perform with a philosophy that old music should feel new and fresh, while new music should become as familiar and comfortable as a longtime friend. This quartet's collaboration with Avital at the Beethoven Festival showcased their versatility and shared musical ideals.

Genre-Blending Performances

The repertoire of the festival concert was as eclectic as it was thrilling. On the lineup were original works like Colin Jacobsen’s "Time and Again," composed with Avital in mind, embracing classical traditions as well as Balkan influences. From the contemporary Italian composer Giovanni Sollima, an Avital-inspired prelude drew on southern Italy's vibrant folk dances. The stage also welcomed "Obrigado" by Brazilian-American Clarice Assad, paying homage to Afro-Brazilian deities with Umbanda musical traditions. Additionally, revered pieces by Bach received fresh arrangements for string quartet and mandolin, demonstrating the timelessness of his music through the lens of contemporary interpretation.

As Avi Avital continues to explore and expand the mandolin’s potential, his conviction is clear: the instrument possesses a soul that deeply resonates with him and his audience. This concert at the Beethoven Festival not only showcased the mandolin's historical significance but also its potential for global musical dialogue and innovation.

mandolin, classical, festival