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Maya Beiser

Cellist Maya Beiser has etched a bold career path that marries classical to rock, starched collars to casual dress, and tradition to unorthodoxy. With an eclectic repertory of works by John Tavener, Tan Dun, Led Zeppelin, and many others from all over the musical map, she plays what many call indie classical or alternative classical. However one defines her, Beiser clearly enters the world of contemporary music with a willingness to take risks. Her freewheeling performance style, which may involve electronics, lighting effects, projected imagery, spoken poetry, and all manner of sounds from the cello, has helped her gain a wide audience of adventurous listeners. Beiser has performed at jazz concerts and festivals and has made a string of popular recordings. She has appeared at Carnegie Hall, Chicago's Ravinia Festival, and the major concert venues in Tokyo, Sydney, Paris, and countless other cities. In 2020, Beiser issued Bowie Cello Symphonic: Blackstar following a multimedia tour of her project in partnership with Evan Ziporyn. She returned in 2021 with the album Maya Beiser x Philip Glass. Both of these records were issued on her Islandia Music label. Beiser was born in Gazit, Israel, on December 31, 1963. Raised in a kibbutz, she began studying piano first but took up the cello at age eight. At 11, she was discovered by Isaac Stern, who became a mentor. For her mandatory military duties, she served as the cellist in the Israeli Military String Quartet. Beiser relocated to the U.S. in 1985 and had advanced studies at Yale University School of Music. Among her teachers were Aldo Parisot, Alexander Schneider, and Uzi Wiesel. In 1992, she gave her New York City recital debut at the 92nd Street Y in a program of works by Shostakovich, Janácek, and other notables. That same year, she helped form the Bang on a Can All-Stars. The group had numerous successful recordings, but Beiser soon developed a thriving solo career as well. Her first album, Oblivión, offering works by Piazzolla and Nin, appeared on Koch International in 1999. By the early years of the new century, she was a major star. Her sold-out Carnegie Hall concert in October 2003 received rave reviews. Beiser's performance of Reich's Cello Counterpoint on the 2005 Nonesuch album You Are (Variations) was a popular and critical success. In 2008, Beiser fashioned the concert work Provenance using music by several Middle Eastern, American, and British composers. The piece had great success in concert, and its 2010 recording on the Innova label generated both critical acclaim and brisk sales. She created and toured successfully her multimedia, multi-style productions, including Elsewhere: A CelloOpera in 2012 and All Vows in 2014. Some of the music in All Vows became her 2014 album Uncovered, a collection of reimagined rock masterpieces. The 2016 album TranceClassical covered music ranging from Bach and Hildegard von Bingen to Lou Reed and Imogen Heap. That year, Beiser premiered Mohammed Fairouz's cello concerto Desert Sorrows with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Mark-Anthony Turnage's Maya with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. In 2017, Beiser teamed up with arranger and conductor Evan Ziporyn on her next project, Aura Blackstar: Bowie Cello Symphonic Visualized, turning the late icon's final album into a multimedia cello concerto. A recording of the project was issued in 2020 on Beiser's Islandia Music label, which she founded the previous year. The next recording on the imprint, Maya Beiser x Philip Glass, was released in 2021. Beiser's TEDTalk from the 2011 TED main stage has been viewed over a million times and translated to 32 languages. In 2015, she was named a United States Artists (USA) Distinguished Fellow in Music, and in 2017, she was a presenting artist at the inaugural CultureSummit in Abu Dhabi.
© Robert Cummings & Keith Finke /TiVo
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