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Published: Sunday, 9/23/2007

Julie Albers will join the symphony at the Peristyle

BY SALLY VALLONGO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Julie Albers plays here this
weekend with the Toledo
Symphony. Julie Albers plays here this weekend with the Toledo Symphony.
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At the ripe old age of 27, cellist Julie Albers says she s had enough of the performance anxiety that can dog any soloist s first-time appearance with a new orchestra. When she makes her Toledo debut with Stefan Sanderling and the Toledo Symphony on Friday and Saturday, she ll be ready to play.

Well, of course she s going to play Tchaikovsky s Rococo Variations, to be exact.

What Albers means is, her playing will be, well, more playful.

In recent years my approach to performing has changed, partially because I have become more comfortable on stage, she says in an e-mail interview.

But mostly, she continues, her attitude adjustment came about because my priorities for making music have changed.

Forget her youthfulness and consider that Albers, born into a musical family in Colorado, began music lessons at age 2. Pampered she may well still have been, in some ways, but certainly not while studying with her mother.

First came the violin. Then, having mastered that instrument by age 4, Albers tucked into the cello. (There might be some exaggeration about the violin progress. The child might just have needed to get out of diapers to accommodate the cello s greater size.)

Still, diligence, determination, and extraordinary talent drove young Julie incessantly, so that by the time she was a teenager, she was a whiz at the cello.

Intent on learning as much and as fast as possible, Albers relocated to northern Ohio, there to participate in the Cleveland Institute of Music Young Artist Program. She studied with Richard Aaron and intensified her climb to serious musical recognition. Aaron since has moved to the University of Michigan school of music faculty.

And Albers kept on moving. She claimed the grand prize at the XIII International Competition for Young Musicians in Douai, France, which brought her a touring season in Europe with the Orchestre Symphonique de Douai.

Still a teenager, she made her U.S. debut with the Cleveland Orchestra in 1998 and proceeded to make musical marks on major stages in the U.S. and abroad. Back in Europe Albers took second place in Munich s Internationalen Musikwettbewerbesder ARD, where she also won the Wilhelm-Weichsler-Musikpreis der Stadt Osnabruck 2001.

In November, 2003, Albers became the first Gold Medal Laureate of South Korea s Gyeongnam International Music Competition, winning the $25,000 Grand Prize. Her status in Asia has grown since a performance in Steinway Hall in New York City was recorded and broadcast. And last year she launched a three-year chamber music residency at Lincoln Center.

Small wonder, perhaps, that she has a new perspective on performing, although age doesn t always guarantee one will be cool on stage.

My goal for each and every performance now is to have fun and communicate in whatever way possible my love for making music with my colleagues and audience members, Albers claims.

In other words, artist that she is, she wants to make the hard work of conjuring live music with an orchestra look easy. Still, such aplomb only develops among performers of all stripes who have done their homework. And Albers is all about wood-shedding.

Preparation is always so crucial for me to be able to achieve my goal, so it does take very careful planning to make sure every piece I play has the proper amount of preparation time. This involves looking through the entire season s repertoire way in advance and figuring out when I will fit everything in, she comments.

The Tchaikovsky piece, a standard in the cello repertoire, is a favorite, she notes. It fits into many programs with many different kinds of works. She ll arrive in Toledo this week to rehearse with the symphony and Sanderling, with whom she has never worked.

Back for his fourth year as principal conductor and artistic advisor, Sanderling also will lead the orchestra in a new work, the Agatha Overture by David Rogers, and Mahler s Symphony No. 1.

Working with a new orchestra always adds an element of excitement to what I do, because it is one of the few factors that change with each performance, Albers continues. In a first rehearsal I feel it is important to balance portraying my ideas about the piece clearly, and being flexible and reacting to the ideas I hear from the group.

I think this makes for a very successful first rehearsal as well as performances. I always like to keep an open mind because you never know what new ideas each ensemble will bring to the piece.

New ideas seem always to generate excitement for Albers, who is no slouch in making things happen musically. Currently on the faculty of Kean University in Union, N.J., in its concert artists program, she balances teaching with ongoing study. Most recently I ve had coaching with Steven Isserlis and Sergei Babayan, she says.

And in her down time, well, there s CELLO, her quartet, which is now commissioning new works, and the Albers String Trio comprising Julie and her sisters, violinist Laura, and violist Rebecca. So far, this new enterprise has not claimed very much of Julie Albers time, but if it s fun, you can be sure she ll make more time for it.

Julie Albers and Toledo Symphony members also will make music at 3 p.m. Sunday in that intimate performance series called Artists Up Close. The audience sits on the Peristyle stage, almost within reach of the musicians. On that program will be works by Handel and Schumann.

Julie Albers performs with the Toledo Symphony at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle. Tickets for the Friday and Saturday concerts are $22 to $47 and available at 419-246-8000 or www.toledosymphony.com. Tickets for Artists Up Close at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Peristyle are $10.

Contact Sally Vallongo at svallongo@theblade.com or 419-724-6101.



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