Drawing: Alisa Weilerstein

Autographed drawing of classical cellist Alisa Weilerstein

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.

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Drawing: Steven Isserlis

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.