Cellist Abraham Feder joins the DSO.
Abraham Feder is making a sound name for himself playing cello as part of celebrated orchestras — the Sarasota Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra and now the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) beginning with the 2018-2019 season.
Instrumentalist Feder is getting attention locally since being named assistant principal cello (Dorothy and Herbert Graebner Chair) by the DSO and is excited about working with the orchestra, being in a beautiful hall with heralded acoustics and moving into a city whose turnaround has gained national notice.
“It’s always an honor to work with the music director who does the hiring so I’m really happy that Maestro Leonard Slatkin will be doing some conducting,” says Feder, who had to compete with other cellists during a series of blind auditions and a trial weeks before being accepted.
Slatkin, who retired as DSO music director last season, is returning as music director laureate to open the classical programming on Oct. 5 with a weekend of Orchestra Hall performances featuring violinist Gil Shaham.
Slatkin will return twice more during the season, leading the DSO’s three-week American Festival in February and closing the season in June with pianist Makoto Ozone, the featured soloist on the DSO’s tour of Japan last summer.
“The orchestra is going through a music director search so we have some exciting guest conductors coming in,” Feder continues. “One concert in particular that will be really special for me is the Beethoven Symphony No. 5 concert with Carlos Miguel Prieto.
“I worked with him at the Orchestra of the Americas almost 10 years ago, where I actually wound up winning a cello competition, so it will be fun to work with him again.
“It’s always wonderful to work with the big-name soloists like violinist Christian Tetzlaff and pianist Emanuel Ax as well as the artists I’ve never had a chance to work with before. It will be really amazing for those concerts as well.”
Among this season’s guest artists will be conductors Kent Nagano, Ludovic Morlot and Simone Young as well as instrumentalists Kirill Gerstein (pianist), Pekka Kuusisto (violinist) and Avi Avital (mandolinist).
Feder, 32, has been drawn to the cello since before turning 3. Although forbidden to touch his older brother’s cello, he wasn’t forbidden to touch the bow and improvised by pairing it with his dad’s guitar substituting for the cello.
“Playing the cello came from being stubborn and competitive,” says Feder, whose parents introduced him to the Suzuki method of study shortly after he turned 3. “I was in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra starting at age 9 and was in it until I graduated high school.
“I went to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and got my job in Sarasota just before I graduated Curtis. I was in Sarasota for six years until 2014, when I went back to school, the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, and got my master’s degree. Just before graduation, I got hired by the Dallas Symphony and was there until the end of this past season.”
Feder, the only one of three brothers to become a professional musician, traces his Jewish commitments to his early years growing up in Chicago.
“When I was very young, my parents bought a condo right across the street from Temple Sholom, and I went to Sunday school, had a bar mitzvah and played Kol Nidre every year.
“While I was working for the Sarasota Orchestra, I went to Poland to play in the Festival of Jewish Culture and performed in the Nozyk Synagogue, the last surviving ghetto synagogue.
“That was a really memorable experience in that kind of a setting. While I was there, the piano trio I was playing with made a trip to Auschwitz, and that was an experience I will never forget.”
Feder’s wife, harpist Cheryl Losey Feder, was introduced to a segment of the Metro Detroit Jewish community as she played at the Birmingham Temple during High Holiday services. This past summer, she performed in Israel with the Philadelphia Orchestra as they appeared in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem.
The past summer brought a new experience for the cellist, who has made a Strauss recording with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Feder, comfortable with chamber music appearances often with the Chroma Quartet, was assistant principal cellist with the Santa Fe Opera.
“It was a compact season because we did five operas in 10 weeks,” Feder explains. “I’d played opera as a one-off in Sarasota and school, but in the Santa Fe rehearsal schedule, sometimes we’d play five operas in 2½ days. To change gears so quickly was challenging, and I learned to have a lot of respect for opera orchestras in a way I wasn’t expecting.”
As the new season begins with the DSO, the Feders will have a new personal experience — longer times living apart. Although she has been named principal harpist in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, they are taking an upbeat attitude about the changing distance between them by thinking of the assignments as bringing them closer to other relatives.
“Both of our families live in the North, mine in Chicago and hers in Maine,” says Feder, whose father, Michael Feder, is a University of Michigan alum guiding his son to become a Michigan sports fan. “Our new posts will bring us closer to these relatives after being in Dallas, which was a huge trek.”
Scheduling and ticket information on the 2018-2019 Detroit Symphony Orchestra season is available by visiting dso.org.