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Mandolinist Avi Avital: Between Worlds

Avi Avital

"Forgetting borders" is what he calls it in the liner notes of his latest CD. He's mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital, and that CD on the Deutsche Grammophon label is, Between Worlds.

The disc is a journey with, and a tribute to, those 20th-century classical composers who used music based on folk traditions in their own works. A genre-defying tour of the globe, the program on Between Worlds ranges from Dvo?ák, Bloch, Villa-Lobos and Piazzolla to folk dances from Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Spain and Cuba.  



Along the way, the Grammy-nominated Avital builds sturdy bridges between past and present; joins the old world of Europe and the new world of America in a pas de deux; and shows due reverence for all kinds of folk and popular music without trying to ingratiate himself with those worlds. Thanks to his character and personal aesthetic, the album’s different musical strands are woven together into a harmonious fabric.

In order to complete those bridges, Avital's construction crew included not only a hand-picked chamber ensemble, but also such world-famous representatives of other musical genres as French jazz accordionist Richard Galliano and Argentine-born Israeli clarinetist Giora Feidman, a klezmer virtuoso who has been a great influence on Avital’s life and musicianship.


Avital was born in 1978 in the Israeli city of Be'er Sheva and showed an aptitude for the mandolin at an early age; by the time he was eight years old, he was performing with a local orchestra. He went on to study at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and the Cesare Pollini Conservatory of Music in Padua, Italy, where the focus of his work moved from mandolin transcriptions of violin pieces to those originally written with his instrument in mind. His study in Italy was sponsored by the America-Israel Cultural Foundation.

Avital has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Forbidden City Concert Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie, and has performed with a number of international orchestras and chamber groups. In 2013, he performed on a tour with the Geneva Camerata. In addition to a Grammy nomination, he has won Israel's Aviv Competition and received Germany's ECHO Prize. He was also part of a collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road workshop on a new composition by David Bruce, and he performed in Avital meets Avital, a cross-genre programme with New York-based jazz artist Omer Avital in Berlin and at Schloss Elmau. Plans for 2014 include an Australian tour with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, concertos with the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra and at the Savannah Festival, and recitals in Berlin, Vancouver, New York (Carnegie Hall), Riga and Montreal.

Listen for Jill's conversation with mandolin performer Avi Avital, and music from his new CD, Between Worlds, on Crossover, Saturday morning at 11:30 am on WRTI, with an encore the following Friday evening at 7 on HD-2 and the All-Classical web stream at wrti.org.

It's his parents' fault. For Joe's sixth birthday, they gave him a transistor radio. All of a sudden, their dreams of having a doctor or lawyer (or even a fry cook) in the family went down the tubes.