Johnny Gandelsman

2015-16, 2017-18, and 2019-20 MIT Sounding Series

"Gandelsman revealed something completely new, valuable, and original in a charmingly unassuming manner."
— Sebastian Bäverstam, The Boston Musical Intelligencer

Johnny Gandelsman performs in the MIT Kresge auditorium. Photo: L. Barry Hetherington.
Johnny Gandelsman performs with MIT's Gamelan Galak Tika at the ICA, Boston, 2017. Photo: L. Barry Hetherington.
Johnny Gandelsman performs with Evan Ziporyn and Sarah Cahill at the ICA, Boston, 2017. Photo: L Barry Hetherington.
Johnny Gandelsman performs for the first annual Terry and Rick Stone Concert in MIT’s Kresge Auditorium on October 30, 2015. Photo: L. Barry Hetherington.
Johnny Gandelsman performs for the first annual Terry and Rick Stone Concert in MIT’s Kresge Auditorium on October 30, 2015. Photo: L. Barry Hetherington.

Violinist Gandelsman "plays with a balletic lightness of touch and a sense of whimsy and imagination" —Boston Globe

About the Residency

Johnny Gandelsman returns to MIT to perform Bach’s immortal Cello Suites in a new way—on the violin. Gandelsman will perform all six Cello Suites in a solo performance in Kresge Auditorium.

In January 2015, Gandelsman gave an unadvertised pop-up recital at MIT, performing Bach’s Complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin to a small but packed house. Lloyd Schwartz, describing the event on NPR’s Fresh Air, said, “I’ve heard some famous violinists attempt this epic feat, but none of them gripped me and delighted me as thoroughly as Gandelsman.”

In October 2015, Gandelsman brought his powerful interpretation of these landmark works to a much larger concert hall, reprising his riveting performance for the first annual Terry and Rick Stone Concert in MIT’s Kresge Auditorium.

Johnny Gandelsman’s visits to MIT, and in 2017 to the ICA Boston, are part of MIT Sounding, an innovative annual performance series that blurs the boundaries between contemporary and world music. Curated by Evan Ziporyn, faculty director of the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST), the 2015–16 season of MIT Sounding’s diverse offerings ran the gamut, from Bach to Led Zeppelin and Morton Feldman, and from acoustic recitals to electronic manipulations of the human voice. “We sought out artists who are reinventing performance and presentation,” Ziporyn said. “We selected people who are innovating not just through new works and technologies, but by reexamining—and reframing—our notions of genre and repertoire, translating between mediums or radicalizing the performance experience itself.” The 2019-2020 season of MIT Sounding continues to expand boundaries, presenting unique artists who push the envelope of their respective genres, creating new evolving music for the 21st century.

The 2019–20, 2017-18, and 2015-16 MIT Sounding Performance Series are presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) and MIT Music and Theater Arts.


Past Events

JS Bach: Complete Cello Suites
Johnny Gandelsman, violin
February 8, 2020 / 7:00pm
Kresge Auditorium, MIT Building W16
48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

Following up on his celebrated debut recording of JS Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas, Grammy award-winning violinist and producer Johnny Gandelsman (Brooklyn Rider, Silkroad Ensemble) returned to MIT with his new project, presenting Bach’s complete cello suites on the violin.

Suite for Violin and American GamelanConcerto for Piano with Javanese Gamelan and By the Numbers
October 12, 2017 / 8:00pm
Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA)
25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA

The ICA and MIT present a centennial celebration of composer Lou Harrison. MIT’s Gamelan Galak Tika joins forces with violinist Johnny Gandelsman and pianist Sarah Cahill to present a program of Harrison’s groundbreaking works for gamelan and western instruments, performed on instruments built by the composer himself and curated by Jody Diamond. The concert will also feature the world premiere of composer and MIT Professor Evan Ziporyn’s By the Numbers, an homage to Harrison for violin and piano.

Johnny Gandelsman / J.S. Bach
First Annual Terry and Rick Stone Concert
Bach’s Complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin
October 30, 2015 / 8:00pm
Kresge Auditorium, W16
48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

Johnny Gandelsman
CAST Visiting Artist Pop-up Concert
January 5, 2015 / 7:00pm
MIT Killian Hall, 14W
160 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA


Grammy award-winning violinist and producer Johnny Gandelsman’s musical voice reflects the artistic collaborations he has been a part of since moving to the United States in 1995. Richard Brody of The New Yorker has called Johnny Gandelsman “revelatory” in concert, placing him in the company of “radically transformative” performers like Maurizio Pollini, Peter Serkin, and Christian Zacharias.

As a founding member of Brooklyn Rider and a member of the Silkroad Ensemble, Gandelsman has closely worked with such luminaries as Bela Fleck, Martin Hayes, Kayhan Kalhor, Yo-Yo Ma, Mark Morris, Anne Sofie Van Otter, Alim Qasimov & Fargana Qasimova, Joshua Redman, Suzanne Vega, Abigail Washburn, and Damian Woetzel. He has appeared with Bono, David Byrne, Renee Fleming, Rhiannon Giddens, I’m With Her, Christian McBride, and many others.

Gandelsman integrates a wide range of creative sensibilities into a unique style amongst today’s violinists, one that, according to the Boston Globe, possesses “a balletic lightness of touch and a sense of whimsy and imagination.” Gandelsman’s recording of the complete Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, which reached #1 on the Billboard Classical Chart, and made it onto NY Magazine and NY Times Best of the Year lists, was described by the Globe as “…sparklingly personal Bach, shorn of grandeur, lofted by a spirit of dance, and as predictable as the flight of a swallow.”

A passionate advocate for new music, Johnny Gandelsman has premiered dozens of new works, including music by Lisa Bielawa, Tyondai Braxton, Daniel Cords, Christina Courtin, Reena Esmail, Bela Fleck, Gabriela Lena Frank, Bill Frisell, Osvaldo Golijov, Gonzalo Grau, Ethan Iverson, Vijay Iyer, Colin Jacobsen, Gabriel Kahane, Rubin Kodheli, Angel Lam, Ljova, Dana Lyn, Nico Muhly, Padma Newsome, Shara Nova, Edward Perez, Matana Roberts, Kyle Sanna, Gregory Saunier, Caroline Shaw, Kojiro Umezaki, Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, Du Yun, Evan Ziporyn, and John Zorn.

Gandelsman has been producing records since starting his label, In a Circle Records, in 2008. Recent credits include three Brooklyn Rider albums: “Philip Glass – Annunciation” (OMM, 2019); “Dreamers”, a collaborative album with vocalist Magos Herrera (Sony, 2018); and “Spontaneous Symbols” (In a Circle, 2017). Additional producing credits include his own recording of the complete Sonatas and Partitas for violin by JS Bach (In a Circle, 2018) and two albums with Silkroad Ensemble and Yo-Yo Ma: Music for “The Vietnam War”, a film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (In a Circle, 2017); and “Sing Me Home,” a Grammy-award winner for Best World Music album (Sony, 2016).

Johnny Gandelsman was born in Moscow into a family of musicians. His father Yuri is a professor of Viola at Michigan State University, his mother Janna is a pianist, and his sister Natasha is a violinist as well. He lives in Brooklyn with his partner, Amber Star Merkens, and their two kids, Julius Ivry and Raiya Leone.

More at the artist’s website: Johnny Gandelsman.

In the Media

“Crisp, buoyant and with a sweet clarity of tone, it’s one of the most dance-like takes on this daunting set of masterpieces.”

— The New York Times

“…There are many fine recordings and several great ones of these sonatas and partitas, and now a new one by Johnny Gandelsman takes its place among the very best.”

— NPR’s Fresh Air

The Boston Musical Intelligencer: A Fiddling Twist to the Bach Cello Suites

Boston Globe: Dancing through Bach’s sublime Cello Suites, on the violin

Boston Globe: Violinist Johnny Gandelsman finds ‘infinite possibilities’ in Bach’s cello suites

Boston Globe: Boston’s best classical music events for the busy winter season

Strings Magazine: Johnny Gandelsman Launches Kickstarter to Record Bach’s Cello Suites on Violin

NPR: Violinist Johnny Gandelsman Infuses Bach’s ‘Sonatas & Partitas’ With Joy

Boston Globe: From these Gamelans, a ‘golden rain’ of sound

Boston Globe: Gandelsman Applies Collaborative Lessons In Solo Bach

Boston Globe: A Violinist’s Bach, Shorn of the Monumental

NPR: Brooklyn Rider Blurs Classical Boundaries On ‘Almanac’

New York Times: Deviating From the Modern, to Fresh Effect: Johnny Gandelsman Performs Bach Violin Works at Bargemusic

New York Times: Ideas From Near and Far Meet In Intimate Scale

New York Times: Unleashing the Potential of Strings

Daily Tar Heel: Brooklyn Rider Returns For 10th Time

Boston Globe: The View From Ma’s Silk Road

Boston Music Intelligencer: Bang a Gong, Get It On

Project Documentation