'Million Dollar Concert': MacArthur Fellows Marin Alsop, Alisa Weilerstein with BSO
This weekend, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra unexpectedly will have two recipients of MacArthur Fellowship Grants onstage -- cellist Alisa Weilerstein, who is among the 2011 winners; and conductor Marin Alsop, who earned her distinction in 2005.
As you will recall, this award -- commonly called the "genius grant" -- recognizes "originality, creativity, self-direction, and capacity to contribute importantly to society through your work" and comes with $500,000 for the recipient.
That gives the BSO engagement, when Weilsertsin will perform the Dvorak Cello Concerto, an extra cache. "The million dollar concert, right?" the cellist said with a laugh from New York a few hours before the 2011 MacArthur Fellows were announced.
Weilerstein, 29, has been guarding the news of her good fortune since being informed on Sept. 7. She was in Jerusalem at the time.
"It was completely out of the blue," she said. "I was completely floored. I swore loudly on the street when they called me," she added with a laugh. "I figured ...
if I ever got an award like this I would be 85. I was allowed to tell my nearest and dearest, so I just told my boyfriend and my parents."
The cellist, whose busy international career has earned her considerable acclaim, has not decided what to do with the $500,000. "I'm still pretty shocked," she said. "I don't have very formulated ideas yet."
Weilerstein does not expect things to be any different when she joins Alsop in Baltimore this weekend. "We're still the same people," she said.
Here's a sample of the cellist's musicianship in a clip from the Elgar Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Daniel Barenboim: