Young mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital will join San Diego Symphony in La Jolla for world premiere piece

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

Coming to the Auditorium at TSRI on May 21, 2013 is an unusual concert by Grammy-nominated mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital and members of the San Diego Symphony. The concert, part of the Symphony’s chamber music series, will feature the world premiere of a piece for mandolin and strings by David Bruce, the Symphony’s Associate Composer for 2013-14.

Acclaimed mandolinist Avi Avital is the featured performer in the concert, part of the Symphony’s Chamber Music Series. Uwe Arens photo

This is a big year for the San Diego Symphony, which is now showing its stuff to the world. In November, they’ll be touring China, and just before that, they’ll perform — for the first time — at Carnegie Hall. Among the pieces they’ll bring to the Big Apple is another world premiere by David Bruce.

Bruce, born in Connecticut and raised in England, has been building a big reputation in the states and abroad, where he is finishing a year as composer-in-residence with the Royal Opera House in London. San Diegans recently had a chance to cheer his delightful “Steampunk,” a piece for strings and horns, at an April performance by Art of Elan. Now the Symphony has commissioned him to write three new works, of which “Cymbeline,” specially tailored to the talents of mandolinist Avital, is the first.

Avi Avital is the first mandolin player to receive a Grammy nomination in the category “Best Instrumental Soloist” for his recording of Avner Dorman’s Mandolin Concerto with Andrew Cyr and the Metropolis Ensemble. Courtesy photo

Avital, born in Israel, now lives in Berlin. His unique approach to the mandolin has brought him rock-star status. He was a young child when he first became interested in the instrument, and at age 8, he was playing in a mandolin orchestra. An award-winning musician and arranger, he is best known for his transcriptions of Bach for the mandolin, though he definitely thinks outside the Bachs, and is dedicated to extending the mandolin repertoire in all directions, including folk music, klezmer and jazz. The May 21 concert promises a broad display of his range and of the mandolins.

“For many in the audience, it may be the first time they’re hearing the mandolin,” Avital said. “So I hope to give them a full panorama, from Bach to a hot-out-of-the-oven new piece by David Bruce, and some of the stations along the way, like (Argentinian composer) Alberto Ginastera and (violinist/composer) Ernest Bloch. It’s going to be an exciting program. I can’t wait to hear the new piece myself!”

David Bruce, associate composer for the San Diego Symphony, whose piece for mandolin and strings will have its world premiere at TSRI May 21, 2013. Neil Matthews photo

Avital noted that, though the mandolin is not very well known as a classical instrument, amateur mandolin orchestras have been popular over the last century in Europe and around the world.

“It’s a good after-work instrument,” he said. “Pretty much the first time you take one in your hand, you can play something. It’s user-friendly, not as hard as the violin, which you really have to practice. In Israel, it was popular on the kibbutz, where music was considered an important part of life, along with working the land. Children learned mandolin in school; it was not a dangerous instrument, because who would consider leaving the kibbutz to have a mandolin career?”

Which is pretty much what Avital did. Hear the results for yourself on May 21.


What: Avi Avital performs with members of the San Diego Symphony

When: 7:30 p.m. May 21, 2013

Where: Auditorium at TRSI, 10640 John Jay Hopkins Drive

Tickets: $30

Box Office: (619) 235.0804



■ The mandolin is a member of the lute family, related to the Chinese pipa, the Arabian oud, the Indian sitar and the Hawaiian (introduced by the Portuguese) ukulele.

■ Popular in 18th century Italy, it is now considered Italy’s national instrument.

■ In the first half of the 20th century, mandolin orchestras were the rage in many countries, including Israel and Japan.

■ In the United States, the mandolin took a new turn in the 1940s, when Bill Monroe made it a staple of bluegrass music.

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Posted by Staff on May 14, 2013. Filed under A & E, Music. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “Young mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital will join San Diego Symphony in La Jolla for world premiere piece”

  1. It is great to see the mandolin – an instrument with such an amazing historical pedigree, making something of a comeback with this event. I liked Avital’s wry comment that “…it was not a dangerous instrument, because who would consider leaving the kibbutz to have a mandolin career?” :)

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