Juilliard alumns open Music at Meyer season

Few American traditions have proven so captivating as the Juilliard School stamp of approval. The list of alumni, from Leonard Bernstein and Van Cliburn to Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Renee Fleming, reads like a who’s who of the music world. The school’s influence has altered the landscape of serious music-making and garnered the attention of Hollywood and the public.

Monday evening, alumnus pianist Assaff Weisman and Aeolus Quartet — Juilliard’s resident string quartet—open the 11th Music at Meyer season with a Beethoven-Dvorák program.

Weisman, who currently teaches at Juilliard, is a founding member of the heralded Israeli Chamber Project, a group of first-rate Israeli musicians with deep ties to the school. The pianist opens with Beethoven’s “Tempest” sonata, Op. 31 No. 2, a work he learned as a 12-year-old prodigy.

“It’s the sonata I’ve played most often through the years, and it’s certainly one of my favorite works,” Weisman says. “Its character is murky, hard to define and there’s a nervous energy throughout the piece that constantly shimmers and boils.”

Named after the Greek god and keeper of the four winds, the Aeolus Quartet made headlines in 2011, winning the Plowman Chamber Music and Chamber Music Yellow Springs competitions. The foursome performs Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 18 No. 1 in F major — published in 1801, the same year “Tempest” was composed — before joining forces in the Dvorák with Weisman.

When Czech composer Antonín Dvorák moved from Prague to New York in 1892, he was shocked by philistine attitudes in America and the difficulties of making a career in music. More than a century later, for Weisman the latter truth remains.

“Walking through the halls at Juilliard, there are more and more people auditioning every year. It’s sad, but performance opportunities are limited,” Weisman says. “Artistry is not well-suited for competition, but it’s sort of a necessary evil that we have to deal with.”

For the lucky few, however, a life in music is deeply satisfying.

“I am so thrilled to be able to share these works, to preserve these great accomplishments of mankind, because they ennoble us,” Weisman says. “My job is a little bit as a curator: I clean it, dust it, I think of how to present it, and then we put it on stage for people to enjoy. The fact that it passes through me is secondary, it’s really all about the music.”

The Music at Meyer concert series includes the Boston Trio (March 10), pianist Gilead Mishory (March 17), Baroque Music of Jewish Composers (March 24), the Adler Fellows of the San Francisco Opera (March 31), pianist Peter Vinograde (April 7) and Shuffle (April 28).


Aeolus Quartet and Assaff Weisman

Where: Temple Emanu-El, 2 Lake St., San Francisco

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday

Tickets: $22 to $25

Contact: (800) 838-3006, www.emanuelsf.org

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