By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
Pasadena Symphony. David
Lockington, conductor; Andrew Shulman, cello
Philip Sawyers: The
Gale of Life; Elgar: Cello Concerto; Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 (Scottish)
Saturday, Jan. 14; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Ambassador Auditorium; 300 W. Green St., Pasadena
Tickets: $35-$100; senior rush tickets (23) available for 2
p.m. concert. Student rush tickets ($10) available for both concerts
Information: 626/793-7172; www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org
Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra. Andrew Shulman, conductor; Nigel Armstrong, violin
Mozart: Symphony No. 29, K. 201; Violin Concerto No. 3, K.
216. Walton: Sonata for Strings.
Sat., Jan. 21, 8 p.m. at Alex Theater, Glendale. Sun., Jan.
22, 7 p.m. at Royce Hall, UCLA
Tickets: $24-$105; student season passes available
Information: 213/622-7001; www.laco.org
Andrew Shulman is going to be one very busy musician during
the next 10 days, but there’s nothing surprising about that.
Shulman, who is principal cellist of the Pasadena Symphony
and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, will appear as soloist with the PSO Saturday
in two performances at Ambassador Auditorium playing Elgar’s Cello Concerto in
E Minor. David Lockington, music director of the Modesto Symphony and Grand
Rapids Symphony, will lead the programs, which will begin with The Gale of Life by English composer
Philip Sawyers and conclude with Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony.
The following weekend Shulman will make his LACO conducting
debut leading a program of music by Mozart and William Walton. Nigel Armstrong
will be the soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3. The 21-year-old graduate
of The Colburn School will be making his first local appearance since placing
fourth in the prestigious Tchaikovsky International Violin Competition last
summer in Moscow (LINK).
There’s nothing unusual, says Shulman, about playing a titan
of the cello literature one weekend and conducting an entirely different program
the next. “What’s unusual,” he says with an infectious laugh, “is that they’re
both in the same city. Usually I’m playing here and then jetting off to England
to conduct an orchestra there.”
Now age 51, Shulman was born in London and studied both cello
and conducting at the Royal College of Music. “I first encountered the Elgar
concerto when I was 17 or 18,” he recalls. He studied with William Pleeth and
Pleeth’s most famous student, Jacqueline DuPre, who by then was suffering from
Multiple Sclerosis. “Jackie talked about things like fingering and bowing the
Elgar,” he remembers. “Despite the MS, she continued to be fully involved with
music up to her death; she was an inspiration.”
Although Shulman continued to conduct, he gained
international fame as a cellist. He served two terms as principal cellist of
London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, taking a break for 10 years to play in the
Britten Quartet. In 1999, Esa-Pekka Salonen called him and asked, “Are you fed
up with London and looking for a change?” He and his wife came to Los Angeles
where he eventually became principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
That job lasted just two years. “With the Philharmonia,” he
explains, “we had co-principals and others as well, so I was playing perhaps 30
percent of the concerts, which left me time to conduct and do film work. Being
principal cellist at the L.A. Phil meant that I had to play about 80 percent of
the concerts, and I just found that too confining.”
Shulman has since carved out a busy career in film music and
conducting. He became LACO’s principal cellist in 2008 and assumed a similar
position with the PSO in 2010. “Both of those positions are great,” he says.
“Both orchestras have great musicians and both orchestras give me plenty of
freedom to maintain all of my professional lives.”
That includes conducting and Walton’s Sonata for Strings has
special resonance for Shulman and LACO. “It’s actually a transcription of
Walton’s second String Quartet,” explains Shulman (who recorded the original
version in the 1980s with the Britten String Quartet). In 1971, Sir Neville
Marriner commissioned the transcription for his Academy of St.
Martin-in-the-Fields, and two years later Marriner and LACO gave the U.S.
premiere of what by then was known as the Sonata for Strings. “It’s a virtuosic
piece,” explains Shulman, “and a terrific way to show off my string colleagues
in the L.A. Chamber Orchestra. They’ll love it, and so will the audiences.”
(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.