Classical ‘supergroup’ to perform at Penn State

Inon Barnatan will perform as part of a trio Monday at Schwab Auditorium.
Inon Barnatan will perform as part of a trio Monday at Schwab Auditorium. Photo provided

Pianist Inon Barnatan, clarinet player Anthony McGill and cellist Alisa Weilerstein will join forces Jan. 23 for a program that’s part of the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State’s Classical Music Project.

The program will feature Ludwig van Beethoven’s Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 11, “Gassenhauer,” Johannes Brahms’ Trio in A minor, Op. 114 and Joseph Hallman’s “Short Stories.” The piece by Hallman, a Philadelphia native and 2014 Grammy-nominated composer, is co-commissioned by the Center for the Performing Arts through its membership in the national consortium Music Accord and is being debuted on this tour.

“Short Stories” was written for the trio and will be performed in five movements. Each movement’s title is meant to prompt the audience to imagine their own “story” inspired by the title and the musical content of each movement. Each member of the trio is a storyteller, equal in voice and perspective.

“Using diverse emotive colors, each movement flits to and from myriad musical styles,” Hallman said. “Simple lyricism, dissonant disorder, a rhythmic propulsion based on unison or near-unison figuration and a heartbreaking/heartbroken pastiche are examples of a few of the shades utilized to create this collage.”

Barnatan, a native of Israel, has studied and performed alongside some of the 20th century’s most distinguished instructors, conductors and orchestras throughout the world. He is in his final season of a three-year artist-in-association with the New York Philharmonic, for which he performs as a soloist and acts as an ambassador. This year, Barnatan will embark on three tours, including the trio program with McGill and frequent recital partner Weilerstein.

McGill, principal clarinetist for the New York Philharmonic, often performs as a soloist with orchestras throughout the country. In 2009, he performed with violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Gabriele Montero for President Barack Obama’s inauguration. In addition to performing, McGill is heralded as an in-demand instructor, and is on the faculty at various prestigious institutions, including The Juilliard School and Bard College Conservatory of Music.

Weilerstein was the first cellist in 30 years to be signed to an exclusive recording contract with Decca Classics. BBC Music named her first release on that label — which features her interpretation of Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto as performed with pianist Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin — recording of the year in 2013. Weilerstein has performed with world-renowned orchestras and is a champion of contemporary composers, including Hallman, who wrote “Short Stories” especially for her.

In 2009, she performed in a classical music event at the White House, and in 2015, she and Barnatan released a duo album, followed by a tour of the United States and seven European capitals.

Hallman thinks that Barnatan, McGill and Weilerstein are a true supergroup and each is best in his/her field. Not only do they bring high-wattage star power, but they bring their musical personalities to the work.

“Each is a master of their instrument and a master of creating connections with audiences via musical interaction,” Hallman said. “They bring both an intellect and passion which is without peer. I am so lucky to have their skills and mastery as part of the premiere performances of this work.”

Hallman said he is excited to see the audience experience the musicians playing classic masterpieces of the repertoire and hear the first performance of his new work.

“I hope they can take an imaginative journey with all works, but especially mine,” he said. “In essence, the audience is a collaborator in the work.”


  • What: Inon Barnatan, Anthony McGill and Alisa Weilerstein
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23
  • Where: Schwab Auditorium, University Park
  • Info: www.cpa.psu.edu