Alisa Weilerstein awarded MacArthur Foundation Grant

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Cellist given $500,000 ‘genius award’

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American cellist Alisa Weilerstein has been made a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, and given an award of $500,000 (£325,000) to use as she wishes.

The award, which has been nicknamed the ‘genius award’, is made each year to around 20-30 US citizens who have shown ‘originality, creativity, self-direction, and capacity to contribute importantly to society through [their] work’. The fellowship lasts for five-years and comes with ‘no strings attached’.

Weilerstein, now 29, and interviewed in the current issue of BBC Music Magazine, has been performing in public since she was 12. She recently performed Elgar’s Cello Concerto in a series of concerts with conductor Daniel Barenboim and has recently signed to Decca Classics – the first cellist to be taken on by the label in 30 years. Weilerstein will record Elgar’s concerto with Barenboim and the Berlin Staatskapelle for them next year.

Speaking to James Naughtie in BBC Music Magazine, Weilerstein, 29, said: ‘When I was four I said I wanted a cello and a teacher. It was an instinctive thing, something I was extremely sure about.’

Other recipients of the award this year include choral conductor and composer Francisco Núñez, jazz percussionist and composer Dafnis Prieto and a number of scientists, writers and academics. Previous fellows include conductor Marin Alsop and pianist Stephen Hough.

Elizabeth Davis