The USC Thornton School of Music and the L.A. Philharmonic, in conjunction with The Colburn School and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, plan to hold the first-ever Piatigorsky International Cello Festival March 9 through March 18.
The festival will bring musicians from all over the world to celebrate renowned cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, who was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in 2011. The Piatigorsky Festival will feature events at the University Park Campus, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and The Colburn School, a conservatory located across the street from the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Ralph Kirshbaum, the Gregor Piatigorsky Endowed Chair in Violoncello and artistic director of the festival, said the festival was created to give both artists and non-musicians a chance to explore the limits of the cello world in one expansive event.
Though USC previously held a Piatigorsky seminar for 20 years, Kirshbaum said he saw potential to share the art of cello to a greater audience.
“I went to the [Thornton] dean and I said, ‘You know, this seminar has been a fine thing … but I think we can do something with a greater outreach and a greater impact, not just here in Los Angeles, not just regionally and not even just nationally, but internationally,’” Kirshbaum said.
The festival, which took two years to plan, kicks off with a sold-out concert at Bovard Auditorium on Friday that will feature seven distinguished soloists, backed by an orchestra of Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra members and some of USC’s own accomplished musicians.
Other highlights of the festival include master classes, which are open to the public, and a closing concert that will bring together more than 100 musicians from Los Angeles schools and orchestras as well as visiting artists.
The festival was planned to highlight USC, The Colburn School and the Walt Disney Concert Hall without overwhelming the logistics of festival attendees, Kirshbaum said. Each day of the event is centered either at the University Park Campus or in Downtown. USC is scheduled to host events throughout the day on Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and the following Friday.
Sunny Yang, a graduate student studying cello performance who will perform in the opening concert, said the festival offers a unique opportunity.
“This festival also brings the city’s music community together, which doesn’t happen very often,” Yang said. “It’s wonderful.”
Kirshbaum said the Piatigorsky Festival is more than just a collaboration for cellists and musicians. Though the percentage of USC students who actively enjoy classical music might be low, Kirshbaum said the quality of music and of the artists in the festival could be a revelation to those who take the time to attend the event.
“The student years are a time for experimentation and the question is, ‘How open are these student minds? Are they willing to go and listen to something they haven’t before?’” Kirshbaum said. “What this festival offers is the opportunity to hear the performance of a classical instrument at the highest imaginable level — these artists are all masters.”
Kirshbaum said he expects all the performances to impress attendees.
“Any event that a student decided to go to, to take the opportunity given to them in this city, would be very exciting,” he said. “I think it would blow them away.”