By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
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 couple of weeks, 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 Symphony No. 3 (Scottish).
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.