Israeli-American cellist Amit Peled can’t forget the last time he guested with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra.
He made history that weekend in 2015, playing the Elgar Cello Concerto for the first time in the orchestra’s history and doing it on the famed Casals cello.
But what stands out most to him was the friendship he forged with TSO Music Director José Luis Gomez.
The two were supposed to reunite in Tucson last season, but the pandemic put that on hold. So Peled instead joined Gomez for one of his early virtual TSO chats on Zoom.
“I was here in Baltimore and I believe he was in Spain and we had a chat for almost an hour,” recalled Peled, who teaches at the John Hopkins Peabody Institute. “I talked about my instrument and I talked about music and we promised each other that the moment we can we would get together in Tucson and make music in person. And that’s coming up so I’m really excited about it.”
Peled will make his third appearance with the TSO this weekend performing Dvorák’s Cello Concerto — “the Michael Jordon of cello concertos,” he said.
“Since I was a child, I dreamed of playing this piece. And I listened to it at night going to bed. I would put a tape cassette listening to this piece,” recalled Peled, who spent part of his COVID downtime filming the world-premiere of John Clayton’s “The Hill We Climb” with his Mount Vernon Virtuosi cello orchestra. The piece was inspired and set to the poem by Amanda Gorman that she read at President Biden’s inauguration.
The first time Peled played the Dvorák was in a competition when he was 14. The winner got to play the first movement of the concerto with an orchestra.
“And that beginning of this concerto, for any cellist, is like a dream come true,” Peled said during a phone call last month from Baltimore. “You sit on stage and the orchestra has a big, long tutti and the moment you come in like a king in front of a nation. I will never forget that first time and it always feels like the first time because it’s so exciting and monumental and heroic”
The 48-year-old father of three estimates he has played the Dvorák at least 100 times with 100 different orchestras, but it is always most powerful when he plays it in the United States.
“Dvorák wrote the piece in America, living in New York, so there’s that sense of it when you play it in America,” he said. “It is never boring. It’s always exciting, and every orchestra and every conductor will do it a little different. I am just very excited to do it.”
Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @Starburch