NEW YORK—Coming off of the drama of the NBA Finals and the fresh picks of its annual draft, one ponders Shakespeare’s oft-quoted phrase “such stuff as dreams are made on.” Whether in sports or music, the intriguing fascination is with the question: How do talented players become stars? Ironically, when speaking of soloists, it is team play that separates the men from the boys, precisely because the ego is fundamentally secondary to their game.
Cellist Alexander Rohatyn seems to have found his game. Instead of displaying the “wunderkind” syndrome that so often can implode or lead youth to disappointment through brutal competition, Rohatyn shows a determined, down-to-earth, and simple joy in study.
As Rohatyn explains, “For some, music is entertainment: a way of distraction from work or school, from the stresses of modern life. For others, like the visual creator or literary master, it’s a source of inspiration. [But] for the shy kid sitting at home in New York, thinking about the stage at Carnegie Hall, a cello, and a chair, it is a symbol of hope.”
It hasn’t all been easy for the graduate of Trinity High School and the Manhattan School of Music Precollege (MSM). In the 18-year-old New Yorker’s own words, he admits, “The greatest challenge on my journey has been balance. I’ve managed a circus of activities throughout my life, maintaining a constant ‘juggling act’ between cello, school, and sports. … Keeping my grades up while making time for the cello was incredibly hard, especially because I’m a naturally disorganized person.”
After his eight years at MSM, Rohatyn expresses a sincere nod to his late conductor, Jonathan Strasser, and to Emirhan Tunca, who was the coach and biggest fan of the chamber music ensemble that Rohatyn formed, “Threescore.” Of course, he also has enormous gratitude for his celebrated cello teacher, Marion Feldman.
Commenting on Rohatyn’s progress, Feldman says: “After a summer session at Manhattan in the Mountains Festival, interacting with older cello students, Alex became more and more interested in the repertoire they were playing and was intent on extending his own repertoire and musical speech. His playing has improved 1,000 percent. He continued to learn at a rapid pace, but his attention is now directed toward musical nuance, style, and a variety of tone color. The result … a more deep interpretation of music.”
Rohatyn shares his deeper interpretation of music with a genuine humility, a quality that is timeless and always ﬁnds its audience.
Thus, it was joy that ﬁlled Carnegie Hall’s sold-out Weill Recital Hall this June when Rohatyn was featured as the top concerto prizewinner of the 2018 International Shining Stars competition. He soared with both the ﬁrst movements of Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129; and with Dvorak’s Piano Quintet, Op. 81, with his MSM ensemble Threescore.
As reviewer Michael Sherwin notes of Rohatyn’s Shining Star performance: “This June, … Alexander Rohatyn, playing the first movement of the Schumann Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129, has blossomed into an exceptional artist whose mastery was apparent for all to hear. In a beautifully shaded, seamless, and rich-toned performance, Rohatyn’s virtually vocal phrasing made the cello sing, reminding me that Schumann was also a great lieder composer.”
The shy kid imagining the Carnegie Hall stage with a cello and a chair has turned simple focus into real accomplishment by keeping his eye on the ball: keeping himself humble and inspired by the music and his classmates, whom he credits as his best inspiration.
The Threescore piano quintet, made up of Daniel Raﬁmayeri and Ari Boutris on violin, Coco Mi on viola, and Jane Bua on piano, have now split up for college and conservatories, with Rohatyn off to Harvard and the New England Conservatory.
But the dream lives on, and in four years, we dream of their regrouping and greater things to come.
“Music has been the most natural and personal form of expression for me and has allowed me to share part of myself with those that are nice enough to listen. I’m eternally grateful to have music and cello in my life,” Rohatyn said.
Steinway Artist Julie Jordan is the founder and artistic director of the New York Concerti Sinfonietta; The Juilliard School Evening Division Piano Faculty, 1985–2015. The next NY Concerti Sinfonietta International Shining Stars competition winners’ concerts at Carnegie Hall will be on Oct. 14, 2018, and then on April 29, 2019. See NewYorkConcertiSinfonietta.com or for auditions or inquiries email: [email protected]