"It's definitely a milestone for me," said cellist Amit Peled about his debut at the Kennedy Center on Sunday, presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society. "When I saw who else was on the WPAS season brochure, I freaked out."
WPAS President and CEO Neale Perl had no hesitation about adding the tall, long-haired, 37-year-old Peabody Institute faculty member to the organization's starry roster.
"He reminds me of [Gregor] Piatigorsky," Perl said. "Amit has the same imposing physical stature and a tremendous stage presence. He has such a warmth and genuineness to his artistry. He plays directly from the heart." (Perl, an amateur cellist with a degree from Peabody, will play a duet with Peled as an encore on Sunday.)
Born on a kibbutz in Israel, Peled studied in the U.S. with Aldo Parisot, Bernard Greenhouse and others. In the early years of what is now an internationally active performing career, he happened to play in Baltimore and was heard by a Peabody administrator who quickly offered the cellist a faculty position. Peled was only 28. Baltimore is now home to the cellist, his wife and three children.
Peled's D.C. program includes Benjamin Britten's Third Cello Suite, written for the late great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. "I wanted to convey my admiration of him and acknowledge his connection to Washington," Peled said. (Rostropovich was a longtime music director of the National Symphony.)
In a neat twist, Peled will also play a piece by Sulkhan Tsintsadze dedicated to Russian cellist Daniil Shafran. "The rumor was that Shafran was the only cellist Rostropovich was ever afraid of," Peled said with a sly smile. "Shafran was one of the greatest cellists, if not the greatest."
Amit Peled performs at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater. Sold out. For possible ticket turn-backs, call 202-467-4600.