Susan Mandel, cello

Soloist spotlight: Susan Mandel

​Susan Mandel is Instagram famous for her deadpan selfies, a damn fine cellist, arts advocate on the rise, and cool AF.

Currently enrolled in the Performing Arts Administration program at NYU Steinhardt, Susan was drawn by the opportunity to learn the field from her advisor, Brann Wry, a veritable force in the arts world, and her other esteemed professors who all actively work across a variety of artistic disciplines.

Over the course of her studies and her own performing career, she speaks to what is a dynamic, fluid landscape and the importance for arts organizations to be creative and innovative. We are all already aware of the sharing economy, the ubiquity of apps, startups, and artisanal everything, and the rise of the subscription service. We, in our arts fields, may feel like we have already hit peak ‘disrupt’ or that these things simply don’t apply to us but it would be a lost opportunity not to take inspiration from outside of the arts and cues from general social trends.

Susan and TCS are big fans of fellow performing arts organizations here in NYC who strive for something new. (We're looking at you, LoftOpera and GroupMuse!) Our idea here at TCS is to meet our audience where they are to make classical music supremely accessible and enjoyable.

Susan performs Max Bruch's Kol Nidrei this Friday - if you, like me, were not aware of this piece beforehand, I feel like we've been bestowed a gift. The piece itself is hauntingly beautiful and Susan's interpretation sings out richly amongst the colors of the orchestra.

“Kol Nidre” (also known as “Kol Nidrei,” as in Bruch’s title) is Aramaic for “all vows” and traditionally speaking, is a declaration given at the beginning of the evening Yom Kippur service and is popularly used metonymously for the service itself.

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כָּל נִדְרֵי, וֶאֱסָרֵי, וּשְבוּעֵי, וַחֲרָמֵי, וְקוֹנָמֵי, וְקִנוּסֵי, וְכִנוּיֵי, דִנְדַרְנָא, וּדְאִשְתַּבַּעְנָא, וּדְאַחֲרִמְנָא עַל נַפְשָׁתָנָא.
מִיוֹם כִּפּוּרִים שֶׁעָבַר עַד יוֹם כִּפּוּרִים זֶה, וּ־־
מִיוֹם כִּפּוּרִם זֶה עַד יוֹם כִּפּוּרִים הַבָּא עָלֵינוּ לְטוֹבָה.
בְּכֻלְהוֹן אִחֲרַטְנָא בְהוֹן. כֻּלְהוֹן יְהוֹן שָׁרָן, שְׁבִיקין, שְׁבִיתִין, בְּטֵלִן וּמְבֻטָלִין, לָא שְׁרִירִין, וְלָא קַיָמִין. נִדְרָנָא לָא נִדְרֵי, וֶאֱסָרָנָא לָא אֱסָרֵי, וּשְׁבוּעָתָנָא לָא שְׁבוּעוֹת.

All vows, and prohibitions, and oaths, and consecrations, and konams and konasi and any synonymous terms, that we may vow, or swear, or consecrate, or prohibit upon ourselves, from the previous Day of Atonement until this Day of Atonement and ...from this Day of Atonement until the [next] Day of Atonement that will come for our benefit. Regarding all of them, we repudiate them. All of them are undone, abandoned, cancelled, null and void, not in force, and not in effect. Our vows are no longer vows, and our prohibitions are no longer prohibitions, and our oaths are no longer oaths.
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Bruch’s piece has long been one of the most beloved of Susan’s from the cello solo repertoire. She notes it’s “ridiculously romantic” – not just because of the du Pre-Barenboim recording (Susan’s favorite) but also because of its contemplative, beautiful melody. du Pre’s ability to connect her voice to the cello is epitomized in this rendition, not just as a vehicle of expression, but also a reflection of the way the cello line mirrors the cantor’s voice. The way du Pre, Janos Starker, and to a different degree Mischa Maisky interpret the piece and their different uses of vibrato was very influential in Susan’s study and preparation.

Susan has dedicated her performance to her Tita (Aunt) Ellen, with whom she was very close. Tita Ellen recently passed away and this piece is a reflection for Susan and her family after this difficult time. A pianist by training but not trade, Ellen was a support system for Susan, always attending her performances and encouraging everyone in the
family to keep up with their musical inclinations. In some ways, this performance of Kol Nidrei is a juxtaposition of Susan’s family – her Tita Ellen, her father’s Jewish heritage – and her love of music.

We hope you will meet us in Chelsea this Friday to hear Susan perform the Kol Nidrei!