Margarita Balanas

St Laurence's Church

Fri Jul 31 | 7.30pm

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Margarita Balanas
 Ligeti, who died nine years ago, may be known by his music in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, but cellist Margarita Balanas turned this extraordinary solo sonata into a dynamic tour-de-force  Hilary Behrens, Co-Founder International Musicians Seminar
The programme:
Grieg – Sonata in A minor, Op.36
Ligeti – Sonata for Solo Cello
Chopin – Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, Op.65
Paganini – Variations on One String on a Theme by Rossini

Latvian cellist Margarita Balanas is one of the most exciting and versatile artists of her generation. Known for her distinguished artistry and mesmerising stage presence, Ms Balanas has performed to audiences world-wide.

For this concert, Margarita will be joined by Guildhall Gold Medal 2020 finalist, pianist Ke Ma.

Margarita Balanas

This season’s highlights include performances for the BBC Radio 3 In-Tune, at the Wigmore Hall, Berliner Philharmonie and Southbank Centre. Balanas was extended a personal invitation by Anne-Sophie Mutter to tour with the Mutter Virtuosi across South America this Autumn. As well as this, Margarita will be performing at Joseph Calleja Charity Gala with Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. Balanas will also be giving public cello masterclasses in London and North America.

Balanas made her solo debut at Wigmore Hall at age 17 and has since has performed in venues such as Royal Festival Hall, Laeiszhalle Hamburg, Foundation Louis Vuitton, Casa da Musica and Le Corum, and has appeared in festivals such as Piatigorsky International Cello Festival in Los Angeles, the Adelaide International Cello Festival in Australia, the International Cello Festival Shanghai, and International Musicians Seminar Prussia Cove and performed with the Israel Camerata, Sinfonie Orchester Berlin, Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana, Orchestra of St Johns, IASI Philharmonic Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfonica do Porto and Cyprus Symphony Orchestra.

Margarita regularly performs with her sister Kristine, and together they have performed across the globe, dazzling audiences with their virtuosic splendour. Most recently, the sisters performed Brahms Double Concerto at the Berliner Philharmonie, Philip Glass Double Concerto at the International Cello Festival in Latvia, and toured France as part of the Festival Radio France Occitanie Montpellier. Their future collaborations include performances at the Cayman Arts Festival, Emergents Barcelona Music Festival with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, and performances with Saarbrucken Symphony Orchestra.

Margarita Balanas has collaborated with such artists as Trevor Pinnock, Murray Perahia, Paul Daniel, Sir Mark Elder, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Lynn Harrell, Peteris Vasks, Signum Saxophone Quartet and Carlos Izcaray.

Ms Balanas is a prizewinner of numerous international competitions, and is grateful to the Anne Sophie Mutter Foundation, the Drake Calleja Trust, the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, the Craxton Memorial Trust, the Tillett Trust, the Hattori Foundation and the Nicholas Boas Charitable Trust. Most recently Margarita was awarded The Musicians’ Company Silver Medal and nominated for the Grand Music Awards in Latvia as the Young Musician of the Year.

 Margarita Balanas and Lynn Harrell performed to a full house, as the attentive and enthusiastic crowd soaked in the stunning music ... Balanas appeared like a vision, and made it clear why she is featured at this cello-lovers festival. Her rendition of György Ligeti’s Sonata for solo cello was powerful, delicate, intense and brilliant ...  Gordon Forester, GLAM Adelaide

Ms Balanas plays the Charles Adolphe Gand Auguste Tolbecque 1849 cello generously on loan to her by the Little Butterfly Foundation. Camille Saint-Saëns wrote his cello Concerto No. 1 for Tolbecque who premiered the concerto on this cello in 1873. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel commissioned a short documentary about the instrument and Margarita’s performance at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which was released and presented in 2018.

Apart from being an international soloist and chamber musician, Margarita is also a painter and actor. Last month, she gave her first live painting concert as part of the International Cello Festival in Latvia, and in Spring 2020 she will have her first short-film launch as part of Peteris Vasks Festival.

Ke Ma

 Pianists go on a lifetime’s search for the heart of this music, but Ke Ma is already closer than many, and quicker than most  Peter Quantrill, The Arts Desk

Born in 1994 in Datong China, Ke studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London with Christopher Elton, Michael Dussek and Andrew West, graduating with a Masters with distinction (DipRAM) in 2017. She is currently pursuing her Doctoral study at Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Professor Joan Havill, Dr Alexander Soares and Rolf Hind.

As a soloist, highlights have included appearances with the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra, Sichuan Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Young Musicians Symphony, Suffolk Symphony Orchestra and the Miskolc Symphony Orchestra conducted by Tamás Gál at the Palace of the Arts in Budapest. This year she will perform Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 under the baton of Adrian Leaper at the Barbican Hall at the Gold Medal competition at Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

In 2017 Ke made her solo début at Wigmore Hall under the auspices of the Kirckman Concert Society. She has given concerts across the UK, in France, Germany, Poland, the US and Canada. Recent engagements include recitals at the Purcell Room, Kings Place, the Saintonge Festival, Maison Laffitte and Salle Molière Lyon in France and the Chopin Festival at the Fisher Center in Bard College, New York.

During her studies, Ke participated in masterclasses with Pascal Devoyon, Angela Hewitt, Yevgeny Sudbin, Peter Frankl, Pascal Rogé, Imogen Cooper, Arie Vardi and has attended the Luzern Piano Academy where she worked with Robert Levin. In 2019, Ke participated in Summer Piano Academy in Uelzen with Prof. Konstanze Eickhorst and was very honoured to receive the Concert Award and perform in Medingen.

Besides appearances as a soloist, she is a committed chamber musician. Ke made her duo début recital at Wigmore hall with British violist Timothy Ridout. The duo made an album with record label Champs Hill, performing Henri Vieuxtemps’ complete works for viola.

Both Margarita and Ke have websites

[Picture credits: Janis Romanovskis (first pic); Dario Acosta (second pic)]