The 24-year-old American cellist Alisa Weilerstein has been named the winner of this year's Leonard Bernstein Prize at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in northern Germany.
The great American composer/conductor's son, Alexander Bernstein, presented her with the €10,000 award last Saturday (August 26) at the Lübeck Music and Congress Hall, at a concert where she performed Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1 with Semyon Bychkov and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra.
Weilerstein made her Cleveland Orchestra debut in 1995 at age 13 and has since performed with major orchestras and in major venues on four continents. (She also performs with her parents as the Weilerstein Trio.) In 2000-01, she won an Avery Fisher Career Grant and won spots in the ECHO "Rising Stars" program and Chamber Music Society II, the young artists' program of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; in 2004 she graduated from Columbia University in New York City.
The Leonard Bernstein Prize — not to be confused with its namesake at the Tanglewood Music Festival — is given each year at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival (SHMF) to a "gifted young artist." The award was established and funded in 2002 by the Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe of the SGVSH, a group of banks in the north German state that hosts the SHMF; the jury includes Zarin Mehta of the New York Philharmonic, Ernest Fleischmann of the Ojai Music Festival and formerly of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein's daughter Jamie Bernstein Thomas, SHMF director Rolf Beck, and SGVSH president Olaf Cord Dielewicz.
The Chinese pianist Lang Lang was the first Leonard Bernstein Prize winner; he was followed by violinists Lisa Batiashvili (2003) and Eric Schumann (2004) and pianist Jonathan Biss (2005). Weilerstein is the first cellist to win the award.