The American classical cellist Alisa Weilerstein is one of the most popular performers on both sides of the Atlantic, appearing with all the foremost orchestras in the US and Europe. Among her many accolades is the 2011 MacArthur Fellowship or ‘genius grant’ which is awarded to American citizens or residents who show ‘extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits.’
While described as ‘classical,’ Alisa has expanded her cello repertoire and is an ardent champion of new music. She is renowned for her performance energy, ‘natural virtuosity, intensity, spontaneity and sensitivity of interpretation’.
Alisa signed my drawing after her recital with pianist Inon Barnatan at London’s Wigmore Hall last November.
Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero returned to London over the festive season with a lunchtime recital at Wigmore Hall.
“Whether she’s hurling ferocious social-media rebukes at the government of her native Venezuela or contouring fiery interpretations on the ivories, Gabriela Montero is never dull. You don’t come out of her recitals thinking, as you do with many modern pianists, ‘Amazing technique. Where’s the charisma?’ She had second helpings when the plates of personality were handed out,” wrote the Time critic Richard Morrison in his review intro.
Apart from her classical repertoire, Gabriela is also known for her real-time improvisation of complex musical pieces based on themes suggested by her audience. She signed this sketch for me before her recital at Wigmore Hall.
Britain’s superstar conductor Sir Simon Rattle returned to his homeland in September, after fifteen years leading the Berliner Philharmoniker to take up the Musical Directorship of the London Symphony Orchestra and Artist-In-Residence at the Barbican and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. To mark his inaugural season the LSO presented a 10-day celebratory Festival THIS IS RATTLE. Guardian critic Andrew Clements said it was an ‘auspicious start to LSO’s new era of Simon Rattle,’ awarding the opening concert five-stars. I dropped off this sketch at the Orchestra’s HQ on the 6th floor in the Barbican last month and he kindly signed and returned it for me.
Scottish songstress Sheena Easton made her West End debut this year as Dorothy Brock in the revival of the hit musical 42nd STREET at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. The two-time Grammy Award winner has sold over 20 million records worldwide with Gold and Platinum albums in the US, Europe and Asia. She is the first and only artist to have top 5 hits in five different Billboard charts consecutively. Sheena has appeared on Broadway in MAN OF LA MANCHA and as Rizzo in GREASE. I left this sketch at the stage door and it came back signed and dedicated.
The rock god Ian Anderson, frontman and flautist for the legendary band JETHRO TULL is one of my all-time musical heroes. Ever since I was introduced to their music as a high school student visiting my Aunty Tricia and John, her boyfriend (and subsequently her husband and my uncle) at their university flat. Tull was always playing and became a influential or should that be in-flute-tial part of my formative and not-so-education, listening to albums such as THICK AS A BRICK, AQUALUNG and A PASSION PLAY.
Ian’s signatures are the one legged stance and the iconic flute, which he actually took up started playing because of his frustration with the guitar and he wanted something a bit more idiosyncratic for the band formed in 1967 and named after the British 18th century agriculturist.
I have been lucky enough to see Ian and Tull perform a few times and in fact meet Ian before a concert in Melbourne, Australia, albeit it briefly many moons ago. It only occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that I hadn’t drawn him, so that go sorted lickity split and I posted the drawing to his company. It came back even lickity splitter, signed, before he embarked on the latest North American tour. It’s one of my most treasured pieces.
Romanian tenor Teodor Ilincai made his international debut as MacDuff in Verdi’s MACBETH at the Hamburg State Opera in January 2009 and later that year first appeared at the Royal Opera House, playing Rodolfo in LA BOHEME. He returned to Covent Garden last month as Lieutenant Pinkerton opposite Ana Maria Martinez in MADAMA BUTTERFLY, where he signed my drawing.
Puerto Rican-American soprano Ana Maria Martinez returned to Covent Garden last month to play the lead role of Cio-Cio-San in the Royal Opera’s production of Puccini’s MADAMA BUTTERFLY. Since making her Royal Opera debut as Donna Elvira in DON GIOVANNI in 2002, Ana Maria has starred in a number of productions including MADAMA BUTTERFLY when she replaced the ill Alexia Voulgaridou in 2015. She is very familiar with the character of Cio-Cio-San, having also performed the part for the Metropolitan Opera and the Barvarian and the Vienna State Operas among others.Ana Maria signed my sketch after the final night performance in London last week.
If you search any list of the greatest conductors of all time, Marin Alsop appears on most, if not all of them. The American ‘batonist’, violinist and Bernstein protege was the first female to become a principal conductor of a major orchestra – the Baltimore Symphony, where she is still musical director. She also holds the same position with the Sao Paulo State symphony orchestra. In the UK she has been involved with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the City of London Sinfonia.
She was also with the Bournemouth Symphony from 2002-2008. Marin became the first woman to conduct the Last Night at the Proms in 2003. She is the recipient of many awards, including the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship – the only conductor to do so and the only classical musician to be included in The Guardian’s Top 100 Women list. On a less elevated level she is the first conductor I have drawn.
I drew this very quick two-minute sketch to capture the energy of her performance, which she signed for me at the Royal Festival Hall in London last Friday evening, after she conducted the European Union Youth Orchestra.
Argentina tenor Marcelo Puente is so good at being bad, he gets booed at the curtain call. Making his Covent Garden debut as Pinkerton, one of Opera’s great villains in the latest revival of Puccini’s MADAMA BUTTERFLY at the Royal Opera House, the 38 year old has fulfilled a fourteen-year dream to perform at the iconic venue. Taking a break from his opera scholarship in Düsseldorf in the summer of 2003 he came to London and took a job as a waiter in an Italian restaurant near the ROH. They found out he was a singer so he performed between waiting tables and everyday passed the Opera House dreaming one day he would be on the famous stage. He actually gave up medical school and changed his career direction after hearing a recording of Pavarotti.
The reviews have been excellent. Tim Ashley, in the Guardian also mentioned opera audiences habit of booing reprehensible on stage characters and commented, when Marcelo takes his curtain call they greet him with “the kind of noise usually accorded a pantomime villain, despite giving one of the most complete and convincing portrayals of the role to be heard for some time.” He went on to say that, “Some might argue that the response validates his characterisation, though whether it’s a fitting acknowledgement for such a superb achievement seems to me debatable.”
I’ve drawn plenty of violinists but this is my first ‘big violinist’ sketch, or as they like to call it, a cellist and it just so happens to be Steven Isserlis, one of the world’s best. Britain’s greatest cellist, who could pass for a Brian May sibling, is known for his diverse repertoire and distinctive sound using gut strings. It was reported that he has never taken more than three consecutive days away from his cello since he was ten years old. He believes cellos have souls rather than characteristics. “It’s like breathing to me,” he said.
Steven has a calming ritual before a concert. Rehearse in the morning on his Marquis de Coberon Stradivarius on loan from the Royal Academy of Music, have a huge lunch, drink coffee and listen to The Beatles. “It’s partly superstitious – but my father was Russian so I was bought up with superstition,” he said. Steven performed at the Royal Festival Hall in London where he signed my ‘big violin’ sketch.