Alisa Weilerstein: FRAGMENTS 1 

Sanders Theatre

Please note that there will be no late seating and no re-entry for this performance.

In Alisa Weilerstein’s groundbreaking, multi-year performance series FRAGMENTS, new music by some of the most compelling composers of our time meets the timeless beauty of Bach’s Six Suites for Solo Cello in an immersive, multisensory audience experience. In FRAGMENTS 1, individual movements from Bach’s first suite are thoughtfully integrated with selected new commissions to make a wholly original emotional arc. Enhanced by responsive lighting and scenic architecture, the music is performed without pauses or printed program details, creating an atmosphere of enchantment, adventure, and discovery. 

With FRAGMENTS, cellist Alisa Weilerstein creates a space for performer, composer, and listener that is at once physically intimate and philosophically expansive.

Before FRAGMENTS 2's premiere at Tanglewood this summer, Weilerstein spoke with The Boston Globe about the musings that led her to these commissions and this format: "why not try to rethink the concert — what it really feels like to be experiencing live music in the moment?"

She invites listeners to "access that primal connection with music" and join her on a surprising and fascinating journey through Bach and an array of brilliant contemporary composers.

Alisa Weilerstein’s FRAGMENTS project has been co-commissioned by Celebrity Series of Boston.

Creative Team

Alisa Weilerstein Project Creator, Cello
Elkhanah Pulitzer Director 
Seth Reiser Scenic and Lighting Designer 
Carlos J. Soto Costume Designer
Hanako Yamaguchi Artistic Producer / Advisor


(5-6 composers will be featured in FRAGMENTS 1; there are 28 composers associated with the FRAGMENTS project)

Andy Akiho, Johann Sebastian Bach, Courtney Bryan, Chen Yi, Alan Fletcher, Gabriela Lena Frank, Osvaldo Golijov, Joseph Hallman, Gabriel Kahane, Daniel Kidane, Thomas Larcher, Tania Leon, Allison Loggins-Hull, Missy Mazzoli, Gerard McBurney, Jessie Montgomery, Reinaldo Moya, Jeffrey Mumford, Matthias Pintscher, Gity Razaz, Gili Schwarzman, Caroline Shaw, Carlos Simon, Gabriela Smith, Ana Sokolović, Joan Tower, Mathilde Wantenaar, and Paul Wiancko.

FRAGMENTS Project Sponsors

Leadership support for FRAGMENTS is generously provided by Joan and Irwin Jacobs.  

Patron support for FRAGMENTS is provided by Judy and Tony Evnin, Clara Wu Tsai and Paul Sekhri.  

FRAGMENTS has been made possible with commissioning support from Alphadyne Foundation, The San Diego Symphony, UC Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures, Carnegie Hall, Celebrity Series of Boston, and The Royal Conservatory of Music, and Washington Performing Arts.

Special thanks to Martha Gilmer for her leadership and counsel, and to Celebrity Series of Boston and Aspen Music Festival and School for their in-kind contributions.

Artist Statement

In early December of 2020, during yet another of what seemed to be endless lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I started scribbling ideas down on paper, anticipating a time when we would be able to reconvene with one another in the concert hall. I knew I wanted to create a visceral, emotional, and personal concert experience that would embrace the world we live in without sacrificing the intellectual aesthetic qualities that make our artform—concert music—such a singular mode of human expression and communication. I also was searching for a way to strip away our own natural instincts to categorize and contextualize everything we hear and see. I thought, what would our experience of music be like if we could be given the chance to simply listen first?

The entire FRAGMENTS project integrates all of Bach’s cello suites with 27 new commissions in original multi-sensory productions, to make six programs, each an hour long, for solo cello. Every program, or Fragment, is played without pauses and the program details are distributed after the performance.   

The composers who have been commissioned to write for FRAGMENTS are diverse with respect to compositional approach, race, gender, age, nationality and ethnic background. There is also an even mix of well-known voices and young composers or composers whose work has heretofore not been adequately appreciated by the wider public. I asked all the composers to write multi-movement pieces for solo cello and to kindly grant me permission to insert the movements at different points throughout the program. That being said, FRAGMENTS is not a project about people who write music but rather about the music they write. The context and narrative in the sense that we are used to in our artform are far less important than listening to how these disparate voices interact with one another and create an entirely original, unified whole.  

Although FRAGMENTS began as a flickering of thoughts and images, it has become something much greater. The remarkable group of artists with whom I am collaborating on this project and their joyful and thoughtful enthusiasm has been nothing short of inspirational to me. At its core, FRAGMENTS is about deep connection; links between disparate compositional voices, between concert music and theater, and most importantly, between audience and performer. I invite you to embark upon this adventure with us.  

- Alisa Weilerstein  

“[T]he result of her reflections shines with uncommon ambition, so much so that it is hard to think of many soloists of a similar stature who would dare to bring anything like it to the stage. ”

The New York Times

Sanders Theatre Venue Information

This performance is made possible in part by support from Celebrity Series' LIVE PERFORMANCE! Arts for All Innovation Funds.

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