Jordan Concert Series hosts legendary Georgian pianist Elisso Virsaladze

Drake University is proud to present world-renowned pianist Elisso Virsaladze as the next artist of Jordan Concert Series. The concert will take place Friday, March 1, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. in Sheslow Auditorium, 2507 University Avenue. Admission is free.

The Jordan Concert Series is named in honor of Alice and Frank B. Jordan, a prominent couple in Drake’s history. Alice (Yost) Jordan graduated from Drake University in 1938 and married Dr. Frank B. Jordan, a long-time professor of music and former dean of Drake University’s College of Fine Arts.

Alice Jordan published more than 250 choral and organ works during a long and distinguished career as a composer. Several of her works gained international exposure. She was active in the Des Moines community, serving on the boards of the Des Moines Symphony Association, the Des Moines Women’s Club, the Drake Alumnae Association, and President of the Des Moines Civic Music Association. She received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Drake in 2006 and was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 2002.

The Jordans founded the Jordan Concert Series in 1992, and when Alice passed away in 2012, the legacy for the concert series began. The Jordan Concert performance will take place at their namesake venue, the Jordan Stage of Sheslow Auditorium.

Widely regarded as one of the great pianists of our time, Elisso Virsaladze was raised in Tbilisi, in a family which for generations was involved in the art and culture of the country of Georgia. She received her first piano lessons from her grandmother, Professor Anastasia Virsaladze. After attending the Tbilisi State Conservatory, she left her native city and moved to Moscow, studying with Heinrich Neuhaus and Yakov Zak, gifted teachers who had not only a deep influence on her artistic development, but also immersed her in the renowned tradition of Russian piano pedagogy.

At the age of twenty, she won the third prize in the Tchaikovsky Competition. At twenty-four, she won first prize at the Schumann Competition in Zwickau, becoming known in short time as one of the great interpreters of Schumann. Her deepest love is for composers of the late 18th and 19th centuries, especially Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and Schumann. She has been lauded in the international press as one of the great Schumann interpreters of our time. She is also well known for a wide repertoire including modern Russian composers.

Elisso Virsaladze performs regularly in London, Milan, Rome, Paris, Lisbon, Berlin, and Barcelona. She is known for her partnership with the cellist Natalia Gutman, with whom she recently performed in Spain, Belgium, Italy, the United Kingdom (London’s Wigmore Hall), the Netherlands, and Germany. She has toured extensively in North America, Japan, and Europe in recitals, chamber music, and as guest soloist with such orchestras as the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic in London. She has appeared with the most prestigious orchestras of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Japan, and the United States, working with such conductors as Rudolf Barschai, Kyril Kondraschin, Riccardo Muti, Kurt Sanderling, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Evgeny Svetlanov, Juri Temirkanov, and Antoni Wit.

Recent seasons have brought orchestral engagements in London (Royal Philharmonic), Rome (Antonio Pappano and the St. Caecilia Orchestra), Alicante, Bilbao, Valencia, Montreal, Moscow, and Taiwan. After a long absence, she returned to North America in 2011 for a recital tour, followed by Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Hacettepe Symphony Orchestra in Ankara, Turkey, Beethoven’s 5th Concerto with the Bucharest Philharmonic, recitals in France, and chamber music concerts with Natalia Gutman in The Netherlands and Slovakia. In November and December 2012, she performed Beethoven’s 3rd Piano Concerto with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic under Yuri Temirkanov, touring with the orchestra to Athens, Budapest, Innsbruck, and Ljubjana. 2012 also brought a tour with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Charles Dutoit. The 2014-15 season brings concerto appearances in Germany, Romania, Bosnia, and Spain, and recitals in Europe, Russia, and the United States.

Elisso Virsaladze was awarded the titles of People’s Artist of the Georgian SSR (1971) and People’s Artist of the USSR (1989), Russia’s highest distinction in the performing arts. The 2012 Telavi International Music Festival was dedicated to her—its founder and artistic director—honoring her Fifty Years of performances. In October 2017, she was awarded the Presidential Order of Brilliance for her contribution to Georgian and world music by Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili at the International Music Festival of Telavi.

She is a professor at both the Moscow Conservatory and the Musikhochschule in Munich, where she is recognized as an exceptional teacher whose students have likewise won international distinction. She regularly serves as a judge for the most prestigious international competitions including the Santander, Geza Anda in Zurich, Rubinstein in Tel Aviv, and the Tchaikovsky and Richter competitions in Moscow.

Renowned around the world for her many recordings, Live Classics has released numerous CDs from throughout her career, offering a wide perspective into the musical personality of Elisso Virsaladze.

For information about Elisso Virsaladze’s concert at Drake, contact Nicholas Roth, professor of piano, at or 515-321-5947.

Critical acclaim for Elisso Virsaladze:

An extraordinary concert by Elisso Virsaladze.

“There was a packed Ponchielli Theater for the concert, which closed the first Riccardo Cerocchi Awards. The Georgian pianist presented a monumental program: almost two hours of music by Schumann and Chopin. In the hall the audience was involved and excited: one of the most beautiful concerts I’ve ever witnessed. At the end of the concert everyone was waiting for the pianist for autographs.”                     

Lunanotizie – October 30, 2018

“Schubert’s sonata in G was the last of his piano pieces to be published in his lifetime. The Virsaladze performance will live in my aural memory forever. In the opening movement she used two kinds of cantabile: a very daring finger cantabile, and the more usual forearm cantabile. But the artistry doesn’t end there: it’s the melting of one into the other and back again as though fingers and forearms are guiding the mind. This uniqueness of mind and body makes for a rare aural experience. She delivered the second movement an air of simplicity, letting it speak for itself. The third movement came with mock-seriousness. The finale was populated with Schubert’s birds of spring, a flurry of different winged-feathered tunes. Mozart’s Rondo in A minor preceded the sonata. She played this with a hushed, casual air, beautifully understated, sound seemingly falling from the ends of her fingers rather than being struck, and the episodes feeling they came out of the rondo, which on every appearance appeared always more quietly; just as you feel she has reached the maximum pianissimo, she drops the sound a dynamic further. But this is a pianissimo which gets enriched as it diminishes. I’ve heard very great singers do this. But never a pianist. I would have said it was impossible.  But I also know that Elisso Virsaladze is a master of the impossible.”

Seen and Heard International – July 27, 2016

“Elisso Virsaladze is a copy editor’s nightmare — I’ve seen at least three different transliterations of her Georgian family name — but there was nothing vague about her performance at her Chopin Society recital. Comparisons across the decades are unreliable, but in the afterglow of the event I’m inclined to regard it as the best piano recital I’ve ever heard.”                                                                            

Minneapolis Star Tribune – April 19, 2011

 “There was a distinctly Old World quality about Tuesday’s recital by the Georgian pianist Elisso Virsaladze, a devotion to traditional virtues. Her technique was impressive, her command of form and dynamics irreproachable. Virsaladze has a reputation as a Schumann interpreter, and sure enough, her concluding rendition of the composer’s C-Major Fantasy found her at her most dynamic and expressive. The expansive formal adventures of the first movement were tightly knit without losing any sense of exploration and wonder, and Virsaladze’s technical prowess paid off in the thunderous march of the central movement. The faster movements of Prokofiev’s Second Sonata also benefited from Virsaladze’s muscular keyboard approach. Virsaladze came brilliantly to life with a pair of splendid Chopin encores: the Mazurka in A Minor and the Waltz in A-Flat.”                                                   

San Francisco Chronicle – April 14, 2011

Soloist with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, Carlo Ricci, conductor:

“Elisso Virsaladze gave a fine concert performance of the Piano Concerto No. 3 by Beethoven. The Russian interpreter, born Georgia, showed her impeccable technique, with a clean and clear fingering, and a dynamic control of delicate nuance perfectly coordinated with the conductor.  Her version was full of musicality, highlighted by her elegant phrasing and a beautiful use of rubato, being filled with the basic logic that each note must have meaning in relation to the one preceding and following it. The concerto was a climax of emotion. Overwhelming.”

El Pais – January 18, 2010

“It was an exemplary performance, imbued by the Italian conductor Carlo Rizzi, a frequent guest who always delivers professional sound and absolutely correct delivery. This time, he effectively made a concerted effort in the Beethoven to lean on the expertise of the great Georgian pianist, who had last visited us in December 2005, who gave a wonderful interpretation of the Beethoven concerto and offered as an encore a mazurka by Chopin.”

La Opinion Coruña – January 17, 2010

 “Yuli Turovsky seems to enjoy good relations with his fellow former citizens of the Soviet Union. On Wednesday he brought Elisso Virsaladze, a Georgian-born pianist who studied in Moscow with the likes  of Heinrich Neuhaus and Yakov Zak, to play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with I Musici de Montréal in Théâtre Maisonneuve of Place des Arts. The famous Russian school is no fable. This was wonderfully vivid playing, firm without sounding percussive and positive without sounding loud. The Largo movement had an honest sort of solemnity and the outer movements were brimming with keen expressive touches. Virsaladze and Turovsky repeated the finale as an encore.”                       

Montreal Gazette – January 25, 2008

Gala Concert: 300 Years of St. Petersburg, Euroarts DVD 2053408:

“I found Elisso Virsaladze’s Ravel Left-hand Concerto a breath-taking experience. Her interpretation was one of the finest I’ve ever heard, perhaps surpassed only by the Browning-Leinsdorf recording from around 1960. I hope to hear more from Virsaladze, who has made a number of recordings of works by Chopin, Beethoven, Prokofiev and others. She plays with a nearly perfect marriage of technique and feeling here, and is abetted brilliantly by the young conductor Nikolai Alekseev.”      

– – 2006