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A Master Class with Alban Gerhardt

Jill Hurwitz

Alban Gerhardt, Cello

This summer, the Festival continues its Visiting Masters 
program by Zoom and on YouTube.

A returning guest artist of the Grant Park Orchestra, German cellist Alban Gerhardt last played the Pritzker Pavilion on opening night of the  2012 season. While his deeply felt rendition of Elgar’s Cello Concerto was lauded by Chicago audiences, it took another eight years for his name to reappear on the Festival calendar. Sadly, that engagement was not to be, due to COVID-19.
Yet, a place for Gerhardt emerged as the Festival began to create its slate of virtual offerings. This summer, the Festival will introduce Virtual Visiting Masters, a lunchtime master class that kicks off on Friday, June 19 with Gerhardt and three cello students. Taking place via Zoom, audiences can tune in to our YouTube channel to watch the musicians at work. Gerhardt will log on from his home in Berlin to work with each student on various aspects of their technique.

The student lineup includes Cole Randolph, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who was awarded a 2020 Grant Park Music Festival Project Inclusion fellowship.  While his fellowship has been postponed to next year due to the season cancellation, he looks forward to playing the first movement of Schumann’s Cello Concerto for Gerhardt--and picking up some valuable tips along the way. 

Local music students include 17-year old Brandon Cheng, a member of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and 17-year old Kailie Holliday from Merit School of Music.
Is it intimidating to play for the man that The Guardian calls “one of the finest cellists around”?  Maybe, but Cole Randolph has already met and performed for Gerhardt in a university master class. Randolph leaves his position as Principal Cellist in the University of Wisconsin's Symphony Orchestra to begin a fellowship this fall with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

“It’s not only musicians that show up to watch these artists at work,” said Hilary Mercer, the Festival’s Education and Community Engagement Manager who oversees the Visiting Masters program. “With experts like Alban Gerhardt leading a session, music lovers will be amazed how a master class can deepen the listening experience at a concert.” 
The Festival’s Virtual Visiting Masters continues this summer with two more internationally acclaimed artists—pianist Andreas Haefliger (July 24) and violinist Christian Tetzlaff (August 7).