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The phenomenal young cellist Andrei Ioniță was awarded the Gold Medal at the 2015 XV International Tchaikovsky CompetitionThe Times of London recently raved that Andrei is “…one of the most exciting cellists to have emerged for a decade.”  A versatile musician focused on giving gripping, deeply felt performances, Andrei has been recognized for his passionate musicianship and technical finesse. The 2015-16 season features major debuts with the Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev at Cadogan Hall in London, as well as performances with the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the Filarmonica di Bologna, and the Filarmonica “George Enescu” in Bucharest. Andrei will also perform recitals in Berlin, New York, Munich, St. Petersburg, and throughout Italy, before undertaking a chamber music tour of Korea together with the violinist Clara-Jumi Kang and pianist Lucas Debargue. In June 2014, he collaborated with Gidon Kremer and Christian Tetzlaff at the Kronberg Academy’s Festival, “Chamber Music Connects the World.” In the past few years, Andrei has been heard in such venues as the Kammermusiksaal of the Philharmonie in Berlin, Herkulessaal in Munich, Stadtcasino in Basel and Atheneum in Bucharest. Before winning the Tchaikovsky Competition, Andrei won First Prize at the Aram Khachaturian International Competition in June 2013; in September 2014, he won Second Prize and the Special Prize for the interpretation of a commissioned composition at the International ARD Music Competition in Munich. In 2014, he received Second Prize at the Grand Prix Emanuel Feuermann in Berlin.

Andrei was born in 1994 in Bucharest and began taking piano lessons at the age of five before received his first cello lesson three years later. He studied under Ani-Marie Paladi at the Music School “Iosif Sava“ in Bucharest and under Jens Peter Maintz at the Universität der Künste Berlin. Andrei Ioniţă draws his musical inspiration from the greatest cellists of our time, among them David Geringas, Steven Isserlis, Heinrich Schiff, Wolfgang Boettcher, Gary Hoffman and Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt. Andrei Ioniţă is a scholarship recipient of the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben and performs on a violoncello made by Giovanni Battista Rogeri from Brescia in 1671, generously on loan from the foundation.


Naoko Sonoda was born in Japan and studied with Seiko Ezawa and Mikhail Voskresenky at the Toho Gakuen Music School, before postgraduate studies at the Universität der Künste in Berlin with Rainer Becker. She also studied chamber music with Tabea Zimmermann and Natalia Gutman. She attended master courses with Hans Leygraf, Ferenc Rados, Klaus Hellwig, Pascal Devoyon, and Jacques Rouvier, and, after graduation, Naoko was engaged by the Universität der Künste Berlin, the Hochschule für Musik Hanns-Eisler Berlin, and the Franz Liszt Musikhochschule in Weimar as a collaborative pianist. Naoko is a prizewinner of many international piano and chamber-music competitions, including Argento and Trieste (Italy), and Lodz (Poland). Solo and chamber-music concert invitations have taken her all across Europe and Asia, including to festivals such as Schleswig-Holstein, Verbier and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. She has performed with orchestras such as the Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin (under M. Braun), and chamber music partners have included Kolja Blacher, Hartmut Rohde, Mark Gothoni, Danjulo Ishizaka, Jens Peter Maintz, Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt, as well as Andrei Ioniță with whom she has a close artistic collaboration. Naoko received accompanist prizes at the international music competition in Markneukirchen (2013), at the Lutoslawski International Cello Competition in Warsaw (2015) and at the 15th International Tchaikovsky Music Competition.

The Italian composer Pietro Locatelli (1695-1764) came of age in a fruitful time and place for the violin, when Stradivari was crafting incomparable instruments in nearby Cremona, and when local stars like Torelli and Vivaldi were pushing the limits of virtuosic expression. Locatelli traveled widely as a performer until 1729, when he settled in Amsterdam. That hub of commerce had become an early hotspot for music publishing, and Locatelli capitalized on the growing market for sheet music. Extracting and arranging sections from several of the twelve violin sonatas that Locatelli published as his Opus 6 in 1737, the nineteenth-century cellist Alfredo Piatti assembled this three-movement Cello Sonata in D Major. Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) secured his lasting fame with the three scores he composed for the Ballets Russes before World War I, culmating with shocking ritualism of The Rite of Spring. Stravinsky’s next work to be presented by that renegade dance troupe marked a startling change of direction: Pulcinella, staged in 1920 with sets and costumes by Picasso, was a witty pastiche of recomposed Italian Baroque music paying homage to the masked theatrics of Commedia dell’arte. The impresario Serge Diaghilev thought that the old scores he had found in Naples were the work of Pergolesi, but it turns out that the source material came from other, lesser composers. Stravinsky collaborated with a fellow Russian expatriate, the cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, to arrange selections from the ballet into this Suite Italienne for cello and piano, providing another forum for this seminal example of neoclassical music. With the runaway success of the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District in 1934, the 28-year-old Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) claimed his place as the leading voice in Soviet music. That same year, he composed the Cello Sonata in D Minor, supporting his aim of revitalizing abstract chamber music in Russia—the antithesis of politically driven “Soviet Realism.” The Cello Sonata embraces the Classical ideals of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, starting with a clear and transparent use of sonata-allegro form with its opposing key centers and contrasting themes. The fast second movement functions as the work’s scherzo, barreling along in a rowdy triplet pulse with plentiful humor and whimsy. This energetic romp clears the air for the slow and austere Largo, which rises from a plaintive, unaccompanied phrase from the cello. The fast finale rounds out the sonata with tongue-in-cheek music that parodies a “proper” Classical rondo.

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