Robert and Clara: Artist Bios

Violinist Frank Almond holds the Charles and Marie Caestecker Concertmaster Chair at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. He has also held positions as Concertmaster of the Rotterdam Philharmonic with Valery Gergiev, and Guest Concertmaster of the London Philharmonic with Kurt Masur. Other Guest Concertmaster appearances have included the Seattle Symphony, the Montreal Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, the Grand Tetons Music Festival, and the San Diego Symphony. He continues an active schedule of solo and chamber music performances in the US and abroad including appearances with the Ojai Festival, Frankly Music, An die Musik, the Nara Academy in Nara, Japan, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Music in the Vineyards, Sarasota Music Festival, and various solo appearances with orchestras. He has been a member of the chamber group An die Musik in New York City since 1997, and also founded and directs the much-loved and somewhat notorious Frankly Music Chamber Series based in Milwaukee. At 17, he was one of the youngest prizewinners in the history of the Nicolo Paganini Competition in Genoa, Italy, and five years later was one of two American prizewinners at the Eighth International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, which was documented in an award-winning PBS film. Since then he has kept up an eclectic mix of activities in addition to his concertmaster duties, appearing both as a soloist and chamber musician.

In addition to his work with An die Musik, Mr. Almond’s work as a chamber musician has generated collaborations over the years with many of today’s well-known institutions, including the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Hal Leonard Corporation, the Ravinia Festival, La Jolla Summerfest, Music in the Vineyards, and numerous other summer festivals.

He has recorded for Summit, Albany, Boolean (his own label), Innova, Newport Classic, Wergo and New Albion and has appeared numerous times on NPR’s Performance Today. In both 2002 and 2004 An die Musik received Grammy nominations for its “Timeless Tales” series. The re-release of Mr. Almond’s recording of the complete Brahms Sonatas, performed in collaboration with pianist William Wolfram, brought extraordinary critical acclaim, and was also listed in the American Record Guide top recordings of 2001.

With pianist William Wolfram, a CD of sonatas by Respighi, Janáček, and Strauss was released on the AVIE label to much acclaim, and was named a “Best of 2007″ by the American Record Guide. A CD of American violin and piano music was released on Innova Recordings with pianist Brian Zeger and has also garnered much press enthusiasm. A recording of selected works of Samuel Barber was released in 2010, in cooperation with the Hal Leonard Corporation. In April 2013 AVIE released A Violin’s Life featuring works and composers directly associated with the “Lipinski” Stradivarius, charting in the Billboard Top 10 in its first week of release. A Violin’s Life, Vol. 2 was released in May 2016, also charting at the top of Billboard. In 2015, he premiered Soul of a Nation in New York and Chicago, a new violin concerto from composer Victoria Bond based on the life and writings of Thomas Jefferson. The work was recorded for release in 2017.

In February 2018, he and the Milwaukee Symphony performed a new violin concerto by Pierre Jalbert, co-commissioned by the MSO, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

In recent seasons he has occasionally appeared as a conductor, most recently with the Cabrillo Chamber Orchestra (CA), the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, the Traverse Symphony (MI), on the Frankly Music series with members of the Milwaukee Symphony, and the Berlin Sinfonietta.

Mr. Almond holds two degrees from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Dorothy DeLay. Other important teachers included Michael Tseitlin, Felix Galimir, and Joseph Silverstein. He has held academic positions at San Diego State University, Texas Christian University, and Northwestern University, and in 2014 joined the faculty of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. In 2014, he was appointed to a newly created Artist-in-Residence position at the Milwaukee Youth Symphony.

He usually plays on a violin by Antonio Stradivari from 1715, the “ex-Lipiński”. In December 2011, he appeared in concerts and masterclasses in Poland to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Karol Lipinski performing on his former violin.

On January 27, 2014, the “ex-Lipiński” Stradivari was stolen from Mr. Almond in an armed robbery after a Frankly Music concert. The violin was recovered nine days later, and the story continues to make headlines around the world. Mr. Almond is extremely grateful to the Milwaukee Police Department, the FBI, and the thousands of individuals who sent messages of concern and support.

Mr. Almond writes an online column, nondivisi, which may be found, along with more information about Frankly Music, A Violin’s Life and the Lipiński Stradivari, at

Toby Appel now splits his time between Santa Fe and New York, and is in his 28th year of teaching at the Juilliard School. He is a former member of Tashi, and the Lenox and Audubon Quartets. He began training at age 13 at the Curtis Institute with Max Aronoff. He has held professorships at SUNY, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, University of New Mexico, Rutgers University, Carnegie Mellon, and Yale. Appel is a winner of the Young Concert Artists International. He is a frequent commentator for National Public Radio’s “Performance Today.” He has toured for the U.S. State Department and performed at the United Nations and at the White House. Chamber music and recital recordings can be heard on the Columbia, Delos, Desto, Koch International, Opus 1, and Musical Heritage Society labels.

Cellist Alexander Hersh has quickly established himself as one of the most exciting and versatile talents of his generation. When Hersh performed at the inaugural 2017 Queen Elizabeth Cello Competition in Belgium, the Musiq3 critics of the RTBF Belgian Radio company said, "The evening session allowed us to hear the American Alexander Hersh (23 years old) on the already well-filled list. With his scenic presence and charm, Hersh has everything to become the darling of the public."

Hersh's recent debuts have included his Carnegie Weill Hall recital as well as performances of the Schumann Cello Concerto with the Houston Symphony and the Boston Pops. His 2018-2019 concerto engagements include performances of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 with the Fox Valley Symphony, as well as return engagements of Elgar Cello Concerto with the Jefferson Symphony Orchestra, and Brahms Double Concerto with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. As a recitalist and chamber musician, Hersh has a full calendar of engagements, including in New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Penzance (England), Blonay (Switzerland), and Berlin (Germany).

Hersh has been awarded numerous top prizes at competitions worldwide including: New York International Artists Association Competition, Ima Hogg Competition, Schadt String competition, Artist Concerts Series National Solo Competition, Luminarts Classical Music Fellowship, Borromeo String Quartet Guest Artist Award, Hellam Young Artist Competition, Boston Pops / New England Conservatory Competition, Jefferson Symphony International Young Artists Competition, Society of American Musicians, Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, and the Chicago National Chamber Music Competitions.

A passionate chamber musician, Hersh has performed the complete string quartets of Béla Bartók and Alban Berg and much of the rest of the chamber music canon at music festivals internationally, including: Marlboro, Caramoor, Ravinia Steans Music Institute, Music@Menlo, I-M-S Prussia Cove, Piatigorsky International Cello Festival, Kneisel Hall, Lucerne, New York String Orchestra Seminar, Domaine Forget, Meadowmount School of Music, and at the Amsterdam Cello Biennale. He has collaborated in performance with such esteemed artists as Mitsuko Uchida, Pamela Frank, Kim Kashkashian, Gary Hoffman, Heinz Holliger, Peter Wiley, Gilbert Kalish, Adam Neiman, and members of the Cleveland, Borromeo, and Cavani String Quartets.

Hersh is co-artistic director of Nexus Chamber Music Chicago, a summer chamber music festival that presents first-class performances for a wide range of audiences in intimate and sometimes unconventional venues in and around the City of Chicago.

Alexander Hersh is a 4th generation string player. His parents, Stefan and Roberta, are both active professional violinists. His grandfather, Paul Hersh, is a professor of viola and piano at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and his great grandfather, Ralph Hersh, was a member of the WQXR and Stuyvesant String Quartets, and principal violist of the Dallas and Atlanta Symphony Orchestras.

Raised in Chicago, Alexander Hersh began playing the cello at the age of 5. He studied with Steve Balderston and Hans Jørgen Jensen, and attended the Academy at the Music Institute of Chicago. Hersh received his B.M. (with academic honors) from New England Conservatory, where he was a student of Laurence Lesser and was recipient of the Clara M. Friedlaender Scholarship. In May of 2017, he received his M.M. from New England Conservatory where he studied under the tutelage of Paul Katz and Kim Kashkashian. During the 2017-2018 academic year, Hersh was a recipient of the Frank Huntington Beebe Fund for studies in Berlin, where he continues to study with Nicolas Altstaedt at Hanns Eisler Hochschule für Musik Berlin. He plays a G.B. Rogeri cello on generous loan from a sponsor through Darnton & Hersh Fine Violins in Chicago, IL.

One of the most sought-after soloists in his generation of young American musicians, the pianist Orion Weiss has performed with the major American orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and New York Philharmonic. His deeply felt and exceptionally crafted performances go far beyond his technical mastery and have won him worldwide acclaim.

2017-18 saw him opening the season for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and ending his season with the Colorado Symphony and Mozart’s majestic Concerto in C major, K. 467; in between Orion will play with eleven orchestras, go on a recital tour with James Ehnes, and perform recitals around the country. In 2015 Naxos released his recording of Christopher Rouse’s Seeing – a major commission Orion debuted with the Albany Symphony – and in 2012 he released a recital album of Dvorak, Prokofiev, and Bartok. That same year he also spearheaded a recording project of the complete Gershwin works for piano and orchestra with his longtime collaborators the Buffalo Philharmonic and JoAnn Falletta.

Named the Classical Recording Foundation’s Young Artist of the Year in September 2010, in the summer of 2011 Weiss made his debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood as a last-minute replacement for Leon Fleisher. In recent seasons, he has also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and in duo summer concerts with the New York Philharmonic at both Lincoln Center and the Bravo! Vail Valley Festival. In 2005, he toured Israel with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Itzhak Perlman.

Also known for his affinity and enthusiasm for chamber music, Weiss performs regularly with his wife, the pianist Anna Polonsky, violinists James Ehnes and Arnaud Sussman, and cellist Julie Albers. As a recitalist and chamber musician, Weiss has appeared across the U.S. at venues and festivals including Lincoln Center, the Ravinia Festival, Sheldon Concert Hall, the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla Music Society SummerFest, Chamber Music Northwest, the Bard Music Festival, the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, the Kennedy Center, and Spivey Hall. He won the 2005 William Petschek Recital Award at Juilliard, and made his New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall that April. Also in 2005 he made his European debut in a recital at the Musée du Louvre in Paris. He was a member of the Chamber Music Society Two program of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center from 2002-2004, which included his appearance in the opening concert of the Society’s 2002-2003 season at Alice Tully Hall performing Ravel’s La Valse with pianist Shai Wosner.

Weiss’s impressive list of awards includes the Gilmore Young Artist Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, the Gina Bachauer Scholarship at the Juilliard School and the Mieczyslaw Munz Scholarship. A native of Lyndhurst, OH, Weiss attended the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with Paul Schenly, Daniel Shapiro, Sergei Babayan, Kathryn Brown, and Edith Reed. In February of 1999, Weiss made his Cleveland Orchestra debut performing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. In March 1999, with less than 24 hours’ notice, Weiss stepped in to replace André Watts for a performance of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He was immediately invited to return to the Orchestra for a performance of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in October 1999. In 2004, he graduated from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Emanuel Ax.

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