By Laura Porter
WORCESTER – When cellist Danielle Akta picks up her bow in Worcester’s august Mechanics Hall on March 15, the audience will have an opportunity to see a musician “whose name we will be hearing for the rest of her life,” says Adrien Finley, Music Worcester’s executive director.
At 13, the young Israeli cello prodigy is currently the featured soloist in the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming three-week tour of the United States. Akta has won numerous international awards and scholarships and played around the world, including at the America-Israel Cultural Foundation’s 75th Anniversary in 2014, hosted by Itzhak Perlman.
“In addition to that mark of confidence from Perlman – who better to tell us who we should be listening to? – she has also been hired as a soloist by a host of orchestras,” says Finley. “This is a mere start to what I expect will be the career that will be coming her way.”
The Mechanics Hall concert will be the second time that the Israeli orchestra has been in Worcester under the behest of Music Worcester, the first ten years ago.
“We are so fortunate to be a stop on this tour,” says Finley. “They are a top ensemble; they tour the world regularly. We are very happy to welcome them back.”
Music Worcester itself was founded in 1858 to present live music events at Mechanics Hall, just built in 1857. For decades, as the Worcester County Music Association, it was known for running the week-long annual Worcester Music Festival.
Twenty years ago, the festival merged with the International Artists Series and the Massachusetts Jazz Festival; Music Worcester became a central cultural resource, bringing an eclectic array of performances to the community annually and facilitating music outreach and education. It sponsors the Worcester Chorus, also formed in 1858, as well as the volunteer Music Guild.
Given the organization’s history, the yearly concert program reflects a degree of variety that “pays attention to and celebrates our history,” says Finley. “We need to have some jazz, some folk. The Worcester Chorus ensures a choral element. International artists keep that aspect of our history going.”
He characterizes the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra as a “top international ensemble,” one that Greater Worcester “should be proud to have access to.”
According to its website, the group began in 1936 as a small chamber orchestra of the Palestine Broadcasting Service. Reorganized in 1938 as the Palestine Broadcasting Service Orchestra, it became the Kol Israel (Israel Broadcasting Association) Orchestra in 1948.
Now based at the Jerusalem Theatre, the JSO, over time, has “played a crucial role in shaping and developing the cultural sphere of a newly formed state. Much in the spirit of the original small ensemble, the orchestra emphasized the commissioning and performance of modern works, both Israeli and foreign, and combined both local soloists and conductors with guest artists.”
Eight musical directors have served the orchestra in the course of its eighty-year history. The current director is Maestro Frederic Chaslin.
On the U.S. tour, which will concentrate in the South except for four dates in New York, New Jersey and Worcester, the conductor is Dmitry Yablonsky. Born in Moscow, he, like Danielle Akta, is a child cello prodigy: he made his orchestral debut at the age of 9.
The program at the concert at Mechanics Hall will include: Cello Concerto No. 1 by Saint-Saens; The Khojaly Requiem by Alexander Tchaikovsky; and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2.
The first half will give patrons a chance to “enjoy an incredible child cellist wowing us in her piece,” says Adrien Finley. In the second half, the Rachmaninoff Symphony is “Rachmaninoff at his best, with long, flowing, sweeping lines. There is line after line of Rachmaninoff at his most romantic.”
While music fans might not look at the title and be able “to hum any of the tunes,” the piece, used extensively in films, “should be familiar to many,” he says.
And it hasn’t been played in Worcester since 2003.
The Women’s Division of the Jewish Federation of Central Mass. will host a reception prior to the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra’s performance on Tuesday, March 15 from 6:30-7:15 p.m. at Mechanics Hall. RSVP: Anna at (860) 778-0446. The JSO’s performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $49 for adults, $17.50 for students and $7.50 for youth. They can be purchased online at www.musicworcester.org.
CAP: The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra