The opening concert of the 2nd International Klaipėda Cello Festival and Competition is dedicated to the memory of Lithuanian Jews, or Litvaks. It is no coincidence that the conductor, soloists and composers featured in this programme are of the same ethnicity, even though they had and still have different citizenships.
David Geringas is a Lithuanian-born German cellist, conductor and teacher. He is elected Chairman of the Jury for group D in the International Klaipėda Cello Competition. A recipient of the Officer’s Cross of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas and the Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Arts, he has enjoyed an illustrious career of over five decades, performing worldwide as cellist and conductor, with some of the greatest orchestras and musicians of our time. Many well-known contemporary composers have dedicated cello concertos to him, including Concerto in Do by Lithuanian-Jewish composer Anatolijus Šenderovas who has passed away just recently. For this work that will open the festival’s programme the composer received the 2002 European Composer Award at Young Euro Classic Festival in Berlin. He is by far the only Lithuanian composer to win this award.
The internationally acclaimed cellist from London, Natalie Clein, has family roots in Lithuania, too. Described by The Times as ‘mesmerising’ and ‘soaringly passionate’, the British cellist has built a distinguished career, performing regularly at major venues and with orchestras worldwide. Recent performances have taken her to orchestras including the Philharmonia, Hallé, Bournemouth Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Orchestre National de Lyon, New Zealand Symphony, St Petersburg Symphony, and Orquesta Filarmonica de Buenos Aires. In Klaipėda she will join the Liepaja Symphony Orchestra in the performance of Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo (1916) – Rhapsodie Hébraïque for cello and orchestra, the final work in his ‘Jewish Cycle,’ for which he drew inspiration from the Bible.
The guest conductor for this opening programme, Gil Shohat, comes all the way from Tel Aviv. Both at home and abroad, audiences and critics alike regard this conductor, pianist and composer as one of the leading and most influential Israeli classical musicians of his generation. In all three capacities he gives more than 80 performances a year worldwide. In 2009, the French government named him a Knight of the prestigious Order of Arts and Letters.
The soloist in Shohat’s Cello Concerto (2000) to be featured in the programme is renowned Israeli cellist Hillel Zori. Widely recognized as one of the top musicians to have ever emerged from Israel, he has distinguished himself as the gold medal winner of the 1986 Maria Canals International Cello Competition in Barcelona, recipient of the Dutilleux prize at the Rostropovich Competition in Paris, Premio–Stradivari in Cremona, Jackson Award of the Tanglewood Music Center, and as the first cellist to win Arie Shapira Award in Tel Aviv. His playing has been linked to the greatest romantic styles and described by the international press to once again give life to the ‘Jewish tradition.’
The Liepāja Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1883. It has the longest continuous history of any orchestra in the Baltic countries. Since fall 2017 Lithuanian conductor Gintaras Rinkevičius has been appointed its chief conductor and artistic director. The orchestra has its permanent home at the brand new Great Amber Concert Hall in Liepaja.