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The Mesa Yakushev Duo
February 1, 2022
The Mesa Yakushev Duo

New Concert Recorded on January 17, 2022

Emerging Artist Thomas Mesa, Cello and Ilya Yakushev, Piano

Johannes Brahms: Sonata for Cello and Piano in E Minor, Op. 38

Frédéric Chopin: Nocturne in C-sharp Minor, Op. Posthumous “Lento con gran espressione”

Andrea Casarrubios: Seven (for solo cello)

Lera Auerbach: Prelude for Cello and Piano, Op. 47, No. 12

Joaquín Nin: Murciana (from Spanish Suite)

The Mesa-Yakushev Duo is Cuban-American cellist Thomas Mesa, winner of the $50,000 First Prize in the 2016 Sphinx Competition, and Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev, with many awards and honors to his credit. The duo’s career was launched in part by their extremely successful showcase for presenters at Weill/Carnegie Recital Hall, the result of winning APAP’s highly competitive 2017 Young Performers Career Advancement audition.

Since then, they have performed across the U.S., receiving reviews such as this in the Palm Beach Daily News: “The pair’s playing was grounded in storytelling, as great musical performances often are . . . Mesa and Yakushev always played on equal footing, never with the piano serving as the accompanist to the cello . . . a musical performance that encapsulates the best that good drama has to offer.”

After the pandemic caused the cancellation of two dozen of their ’20-21 concerts, their first live performance, at the Wildflower Festival in PA, received this presenter feedback:

“THOMAS AND ILYA WERE STUPENDOUS! I cannot say enough good things about these two superlative musicians and how much the audience loved them. They had the audience eating out of their hands from the moment they walked on stage until the last note.  Not only are they wonderful performers, but they are also terrific to work with.

The audience was mesmerized by their musicianship and their amazing synergy. Each one enhances the other’s playing, and they have such wonderful charisma both on stage and off. I love that both of them have a great rapport with the audience and a wonderful sense of humor. Everyone enjoyed their comments and their good-natured kidding with each other. As people were leaving the venue, they were all saying wonderful things about how terrific the concert was — exactly what any presenter wants to hear.”  —Judi Mortensen, Director

Thomas Mesa

The brilliant young Cuban-American cellist Thomas Mesa is quickly establishing himself as one of the most charismatic and engaging performers of his generation. Mr. Mesa was the winner of the $50,000 First Prize in the 2016 Sphinx Competition; the Thaviu Competition for String Performance (Chicago); and the Alhambra Orchestra Concerto Competition. His performances of Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl were seen by an audience of over 30,000, and his performance with the Cleveland Orchestra received this rave review from the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “A listener with closed eyes would have been hard-pressed to distinguish [Mesa’s] shapely, expressive performance from that of another gifted artist two or three times his age.”

As a driving force in the Sphinx Virtuosi Orchestra, Thomas has been featured as a soloist on tour in the concerto Dance for a New Day by jazz trumpeter-composer Terence Blanchard. The Sphinx Organization, in conjunction with Carnegie Hall and the New World Symphony, has also commissioned for Mesa a solo concerto by Jessie Montgomery to be toured in 2020.

As a recording artist, Mr. Mesa was featured on the GRAMMY-nominated album, “Bonhoeffer” with the multiple-GRAMMY-winning ensemble, The Crossing Choir. He has appeared with them as a soloist at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, Longwood Gardens, The Winter Garden (broadcast on WNYC), and the Theological Seminary in New York City. Mr. Mesa and The Crossing also collaborated on the American premiere of Astralis for choir and solo cello by Wolfgang Rihm, with more collaborations and premieres scheduled for future seasons.

Other recordings in progress include the piano and cello music of Brahms and Beethoven; an album dedicated to the music of Debussy; and a special project in collaboration with PARMA Recordings in a “Call for Scores” that will bring together and record new works for solo cello and cello/piano. This project will include an album release concert at The DiMenna Center in New York City and the album will be available on all commercial streaming platforms.

Mr. Mesa tours with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and is the cellist of the renowned St. Petersburg Piano Quartet. He has toured with Itzhak Perlman and Protegés both nationally and internationally. Other appearances have included the Mainly Mozart Festival (San Diego), Bargemusic (NYC), Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series (Chicago), Columbia University, Carnegie Hall, the U.S. Supreme Court, The Heifetz Institute, Meadowmount School of Music, Strad for Lunch Series (NYC), and the International Beethoven Project.

Mr. Mesa is a sought-after educator for his ability to connect with students and teach them to teach themselves. He recently joined the faculty of the SUNY Purchase School of Music, and has given masterclasses at institutions such as UC Berkeley, Boston Conservatory, Northwestern University, DePaul University, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, University of Miami, Meadowmount School of Music, Walnut Hill School, and has held faculty positions at Sphinx Performance Academy, The Heifetz Institute, Music Mountain Festival and School, Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, Montecito International Music Festival, St. Petersburg International Music Academy, and the Mozart Academy at John Jay College in New York City.

Thomas Mesa received his BM from The Juilliard School and his MM from Northwestern University, and he is a doctoral candidate at the Manhattan School of Music. His principal teachers were Timothy Eddy, Julia Lichten, Hans Jorgen Jensen, Mark Churchill, Ross Harbaugh, and Wells Cunningham.

He plays a gorgeous cello made by Richard Tobin in 1820, an instrument that was used in soundtracks for the first movies ever made.

Ilya Yakushev

Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev, with many awards and honors to his credit, continues to astound and mesmerize audiences at major venues on three continents.

In 2014, the British label Nimbus Records released Yakushev’s CD, “Prokofiev Sonatas Vol. 1” CD. The American Record Guide wrote, “Yakushev is one of the very best young pianists before the public today, and it doesn’t seem to matter what repertoire he plays – it is of the highest caliber.” Volume 2 was published in 2017, as was an all-Russian CD.

Highlights of Ilya’s ’21-22 season include appearances as soloist with the Wisconsin Philharmonic, La Crosse Symphony, and Fort Wayne Philharmonic, as well as recitals in PA, CA, CT, TN, AZ, MD, FL, and CO.

In past seasons, he has performed in various prestigious venues worldwide, including Great Philharmonic Hall (St. Petersburg), Victoria Hall (Singapore), Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall (New York), Davies Symphony Hall (San Francisco), and Sejong Performing Arts Center (Seoul, Korea). His performances with orchestra include those with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, BBC Concert Orchestra, Boston Pops, Rochester Philharmonic, Utah Symphony, and many others. His critically-acclaimed duo with cellist Thomas Mesa is in great demand.

Winner of the 2005 World Piano Competition which took place in Cincinnati, OH, Mr. Yakushev received his first award at age 12 as a prizewinner of the Young Artists Concerto Competition in his native St. Petersburg. In 1997, he received the Mayor of St. Petersburg’s Young Talents award, and in both 1997 and 1998, he won First Prize at the Donostia Hiria International Piano Competition in San Sebastian, Spain. In 1998, he received a national honor, The Award for Excellence in Performance, presented to him by the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation in Moscow. Most recently, Mr. Yakushev became a recipient of the prestigious Gawon International Music Society’s Award in Seoul, Korea.

Mr. Yakushev attended the Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music in his native St. Petersburg, Russia, and subsequently came to New York City to attend Mannes College of Music, where he studied with legendary pianist Vladimir Feltsman.

A sampling of critical praise for Mr. Yakushev includes:

“In Familiar Music, a Pianist Shows What He Can Do [HEADLINE]: Mr. Yakushev can do just about anything he wants . . .  superb.” —New York Times

“Yakushev was little short of heroic.” —New York Times

One of the Top 10 Classical Music Events of the Year:

“The young Russian pianist made an astounding triple debut as part of the [San Francisco] Symphony’s Prokofiev Festival, playing the First Concerto, the Fourth Concerto and the Seventh Sonata with vigor and virtuosity.” —San Francisco Chronicle