Cello

Alisa Weilerstein

© Decca / Paul Stuart

Introduction

The American-born cellist Alisa Weilerstein has attracted attention worldwide for her natural virtuosity, intensity of her playing and the spontaneity and sensitivity of her interpretations. In 2010, she was invited by Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic to play the Elgar concerto in the orchestra’s annual Europakonzert which that year took place in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre. She has appeared with all of the major orchestras throughout the United States and Europe with conductors including Pablo Heras-Casado, Gustavo Dudamel, Sir Mark Elder, Christoph Eschenbach, Paavo Järvi, Zubin Mehta, Matthias Pintscher, Yuri Temirkanov, Juraj Valcuha, Osmo Vänskä, Semyon Bychkov, Simone Young and Jaap van Zweden. She has also appeared at major music festivals throughout the world as a soloist, recitalist and as a chamber musician.

The 2016/17 season sees Alisa give world premiere performance of Matthias Pintscher’s new concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the composer himself on the podium. This work has been commissioned by Matthias Pintscher and written especially for Alisa. Other highlights include performances with the Stockholm Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony, Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Lausanne Chamber Orchestra and the Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia.


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Video & Audio

Performance Schedule

 

From The Green Room

Discography

  • SHOSTAKOVICH More info  

    Label: Decca

    Release Date: 23 Sep 16

    Cello Concertos 1 & 2

    Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks/Pablo Heras-Casado
    Alisa Weilerstein, Cello

  • RACHMANINOV & CHOPIN More info  

    Label: Decca

    Release Date: 02 Oct 15

    Cello Concertos

    Alisa Weilerstein, cello
    Inon Barnatan, piano

  • SOLO More info  

    Label: Decca

    Release Date: 06 Oct 14

    The long-awaited solo album from Decca’s star cellist sees Weilerstein revealing and revelling in her technique.

    The 20th Century was significant in affirming the cello’s place as a premiere solo instrument. Between 1900 and 1960 over 160 works were written for solo cello – the most ground-breaking of these forms the centrepiece of this recital: Zoltan Kodaly’s Solo Sonata, composed in 1915.

  • Dvorák More info  

    Label: Decca

    Release Date: 07 Apr 14

    Cello Concerto in B minor, op. 104
    Lasst mich allein, op.82
    Rondo in G minor, op. 94
    Goin’ home
    Songs my mother taught me, op. 55 no. 4
    Silent woods, op. 68 no. 5 (version for cello and piano)
    Slavonic Dance no. 8 in G minor, op. 46 no. 8

    Czech Philharmonic Orchestea / Jiri Belohlavek
    Anna Polonsky, Piano

  • Elgar & Carter More info  

    Label: Decca

    Release Date: 01 Jan 13

    Cello Concertos

    Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim
    Alisa Weilerstein, Cello

  • 08 Feb 17 Bach Complete solo Bach cello suites: 08 February 2017
    St John's Smith Square
    More info  
    “Alisa Weilerstein plays Bach’s Cello Suites with the rapt expression of a madonna, leaning into the play of light and shade in the preludes and listening attentively to the rhythms of dances that no one dances any more. Alone on stage, the American cellist found a balance between intimacy and grandeur in a performance of more than three hours.
    As with the partitas and sonatas for solo violin, there is no evidence that the six cello suites were intended to be performed as a cycle. In the case of Suite No 6 in D major, the music may not have been written for a cello at all but for a piccolo cello or a viola da gamba. With a smooth, unforced tone, a beautiful ring in the tenor register and long, intelligently argued phrasing, Weilerstein traced stylistic connections between the first, second, third and fourth suites, then stepped back from the sunshine into the long shadows of the fifth, comfortable in its sadness and introspection.”

    **** Anna Picard, The Times, 13 February 2017

  • 16 Nov 16 Dvorak Cello Concerto: 16, 17 & 18 November 2016
    Sydney Symphony Orchestra/Brett Dean, Sydney Opera House
    More info  
    “The young American cellist Alisa Weilerstein made a welcome return with the SSO under artist-in-residence Brett Dean on Wednesday, with a performance of Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor full of characteristic boldness, expressive intensity and resplendently sinewy warm sound. Oh, and by the way, her mastery of the instrument is about as complete as you are likely to need: she cuts a swathe through the most complex passages with focused musical purpose that is intelligently attuned to the musical idea. The first movement had wonderful rhythmic definition and projection which evolved into bristling energy and apt emphasis in the finale. The slow movement between was glowing and reflective as though haunted by pressing and tender thoughts.”

    ****1/2 Peter McCallum, The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 November 2016

    “There’s a good reason why 34-year-old American cellist Alisa Weilerstein should be dubbed “the new Jacqueline du Pre”. After all Daniel Barenboim chose her for his first recording of the Elgar cello concerto since the legendary albums he made with his wife in the 1960s. But while Weilerstein admits du Pre is her cello hero and they do have in common that riveting intensity and passion in their playing, coupled with prodigious technique and the ability to make each note mean something, the young New Yorker is showing the world that hers is a talent that only comes along once in a very long while. In Sydney we’ve seen her with Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 2011 performing Prokofiev and again two years later with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra stunning us with Shostakovich.
    Even more remarkable was her 2014 recital in the intimate Utzon Room at the Opera House which brought home what a stupendous musician she is. So her return here to perform Dvorak’s cello concerto — perhaps the greatest of them all — was a concert not to be missed. It’s a work that has everything, from the Bohemian melodic surges of the first movement to a yearning adagio and a toe-tapping Czech folk dance-inflected finale. It demands much of the soloist, with extraordinary double-stopped runs and gigantic heroic gestures which range from the bottom to the top of the fingerboard. Weilerstein and her recently-acquired Montagnana cello seem almost as one as she plays, weaving and throwing her head back or looking at concertmaster Andrew Haveron or conductor Brett Dean.”

    Steve Moffatt, The Daily Telegraph Australia, 21 November 2016

  • 23 Sep 16 Shostakovich Cello Concerto No.2
    (Ulster Orchestra/Rafael Payare), Ulster Hall
    More info  

    “[Alisa’s] virtuosity shone in this sombre piece which was the gateway to the composer’s last period of his difficult artistic life, and she brought out all the beauty and the lyricism amid the bleakness of this work … The soloist was given sustained waves of applause and clearly there is a special chemistry between Alisa Weilerstein and the Ulster audience.”
    Alf McCreary, Belfast Telegraph, 26 September 2016

  • 18 Jan 16 Elgar Cello Concerto: 17 January 2016
    London Symphony Orchestra/Pablo Heras-Casado, Barbican
    More info  

    “No orchestra in the world has a longer association with the Elgar cello concerto than the LSO, and Weilerstein’s account of the composer’s iconic late period work was the centrepiece of the evening. From first to last, though, her playing possessed a freshness and authority very much of its own, to which the rapport with Heras-Casado’s restrained control of the orchestra greatly contributed. Weilerstein rode the changing moods with eloquence and assurance, mesmerisingly so in some of the fastest passages, but she was always alive to dynamic contrasts and intimate inflections of phrase. The most striking aspect of a highly convincing account was the way Weilerstein managed to keep the balance between Elgar’s reflectiveness, which can sometimes swamp the work, and the composer’s very practical determination to press on.”
    **** Martin Kettle, The Guardian, 18 January 2016

  • 21 May 15 Dvorak Cello Concerto: 13 May 2015
    Orchestre de Paris/Emmanuel Krivine, Philharmonie de Paris
    More info  

    “Dès son entrée, le violoncelle installe sa domination et se pose en maître sur l’orchestre, impétueux, sauvage, rugueux. Alisa Weilerstein démontre sa virtuosité et se veut passionnée, elle affronte les thèmes et arrache les cordes faisant monter la pression, pour mieux établir le contraste avec l’instant de redoux qui suit : attendrissement et épanchement séducteur, comme si la belle et son violoncelle se prenaient à faire la cour à l’orchestre … Une prestation
    divine et d’une grande maturité largement saluée par le public comme par les musiciens manifestement ravis d’avoir accompagné la musicienne.”
    Marie Charlotte Mallard, Toute la Culture.com

  • 20 Mar 15 Shostakovich Cello Concerto No.2: 19 March 2015
    Hallé Orchestra/Sir Mark Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
    More info  

    “It takes an exceptionally responsive cellist to make sense of it all, and Alisa Weilerstein proved herself to be one of the few who can. Her playing ranged from tranquil passages of sensual beauty to rough, demonic outbursts performed with the furious expression of one who has been rudely awoken from a beautiful dream.”
    **** Alfred Hickling, The Guardian

    “Shostakovich’s 2nd Cello Concerto was performed by Alisa Weilerstein, a young American cellist whose recent recording of Elgar’s concerto with Daniel Barenboim was praised to the skies. Weilerstein is truly a phenomenon. It’s rare to hear an orchestra dominated by a soloist with such apparent ease, especially in this piece which seems to take an almost sadistic pleasure in pitting the cellist against impossible odds. At one point the cellist’s interjections have to balance a series of implacable thumps on the bass drum, at another it emits a high-pitched scream, pianissimo, above the entire orchestra, before descending in vertiginous leaps.
    These moments can seem febrile, but Weilerstein’s technique was so rock-solid and her tone so magisterial they sounded epic. Everything was super-charged with significance, whether it was the dry single notes that began the piece or the constant reappearance of a yearning phrase, sounding like a window onto another, better world.”
    **** Ivan Hewett, The Daily Telegraph

    “American cellist Alisa Weilerstein displayed the same fierce intent in her playing as that with which she strode on stage. Even the most aggressive percussive outbursts were matched by her phenomenal power. Her tone was unfailingly clean and direct, but with a strikingly rich palette of colours to hand. Most memorable was the ghostly-pale pianissimo she achieved during one run of high harmonics, her control here reflecting her consummate technical skill.”
    **** Rohan Shotton, BachTrack

  • 25 Aug 14 Dvorak Cello Concerto: 24 August 2014
    BBC PROMS Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Jiří Bělohlávek, Royal Albert Hall, London
    More info  

    “The solo part played with such focus and sweep as it was here, by Alisa Weilerstein…The spacious slow movement, beautifully drawn out
    by Weilerstein and with the orchestra in complete sympathy.
    Weilerstein’s encore, a solo Bach Sarabande, was from the same mould – smooth, deliberate and perfectly controlled.”
    **** Erica Jeal, The Guardian

    “Alisa Weilerstein’s entry was at once richly Romantic in feel and with a succulent vibrato to her singing solo part she found depth in the nuanced details as she skilfully negotiated the many changes of mood and tempo to be of one accord with Bělohlávek’s orchestra. The Allegro ma non troppo middle movement brought elegance from the orchestra, where restraint of utterance in the brass and woodwind parts was a most effective support to Weilerstein’s plaintive solo…Weilerstein matched them at every turn with playing of élan that demonstrated once again just why she ranks amongst the foremost cellists performing today, and together the concerto was brought to a thrilling and absorbing conclusion. As a solo encore Weilerstein played the Sarabande from J. S. Bach’s C major Suite, BWV1009, with a refined simplicity of tone.”
    **** Evan Dickerson, Music OMH

    “The American cellist plays as if she were dreaming up the music on the spot, with a fluidity and passion that induces goose pimples. Here the concerto poured out of her like a breathless love ballad, to exhilarating effect.”
    **** Hannah Nepil, The Financial Times

  • 09 Jul 14 Solo Recital: 7 July 2014
    Sydney Opera House, Sydney
    More info  

    “Alisa Weilerstein’s sound is richly coloured yet transparently clear,
    with an energised edge that can ring out courageously or lose itself in
    sweet reflection. It is wonderful to hear a young musician who, through talent and sheer hard work, has mastered her instrument so completely yet who is so attentive to its tone, listens to it, guides and is led by it. Be it stentorian or sweet, glowing or autumnal, sepulchral or wispy, it is never harsh or distorted. There is still the bloom of beauty and expressive imagination in the most strident of gestures…Kodaly’s Sonata for Solo Cello was, in many ways, an astonishing tour-de-force in terms of Weilerstein’s conquest of its immense technical difficulties, yet the absorbing musical narrative made it memorable…this intimate solo recital before the spectacular harbour backdrop in the Utzon Room confirmed the impression of a musician of immense talent, accomplishment and musical substance.”
    **** Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald

  • 04 Jul 14 Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante: 4 July 2014
    New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Rafael Payare, Auckland Town Hall
    More info  

    “Not at all fazed by the virtuoso demands of the first movement,
    Weilerstein made an effortless flourish of the second, with massive
    pizzicato chords bordering on the percussive and even more poignant
    melodies.”
    William Dart, The New Zealand Herald

  • 14 Apr 14 Schumann Cello Concerto: 10 April 2014
    Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg/Ivor Bolton, Mozarteum Hall, Salzburg
    More info  

    “Alisa Weilerstein is particularly known for her high technical precision and passionate playing, both of which were on show this evening. The A minor concerto was one of Schumann’s last works, and its melodies are visibly drawn from the tragic circumstances of its mentally disturbed composer. This aspect was clear to see in Weilerstein’s interpretation; as she played the rapid leaps and wide intervals of the concerto’s last movement, you could sense her feeling of Schumann’s frenetic grief. Her playing was never merely a correct rendering of the printed music; she played without fear and with great attention to the expression, with numerous double stops filling the hall with a dark timbre. A totally bewitched audience rewarded her with lengthy applause and received an encore in return: the bourrée from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite no. 3, in which the young cellist showed once again her fantastic technique and the facility with which she plays.”
    **** Larissa Schutz, Bachtrack

  • 05 Dec 13 Duo Recital: 2 December 2013
    Inon Barnatan (Piano), Cemal Resit Rey Concert Hall, Istanbul
    More info  

    “This dynamic duo wins the prize for being the most musical — and exquisitely so, a perfect model of maximum expression through a great variety of volume levels. None of it is manufactured; it’s felt, as if the musicians are truly communing with the composer every second. Their renditions of duos by Debussy, Schubert, Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff revealed an intense kaleidoscope of emotion, particularly in Rachmaninoff’s cello sonata, where they were able to mine the rich riptide of romanticism by letting its innate magic work without putting unnecessary pressure on it.
    Weilerstein’s highly nuanced performances, from sinewy to breathlessly evanescent, revealed an exciting and exceptionally truthful artist. Barnatan’s phenomenal prowess sparkled throughout, and in Schubert’s “Fantasy” he made the numerous fantastic knuckle-busting variations practically levitate.
    Compared to the amount of megastar wattage that preceded them, these two musicians provided the most momentously musical experience among them all.”
    Alexandra Ivanoff, Todays Zaman

  • 30 Sep 13 Elgar Cello Concerto: 29 September 2013
    BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Donald Runnicles, Usher Hall, Edinburgh
    More info  

    “American cellist Alisa Weilerstein’s reading of the Elgar centred wholly on the poetic – the natural expressiveness of the opening filled with dreamlike expectation, a sense of quiet exhilaration in the scherzo passages set alight with nimble flirtatiousness, the Adagio beautifully weighted by a darkened pallor, and the finale making its conciliatory point with impassioned lyricism.”
    ***** Kenneth Walton, The Scotsman

  • 12 Jun 13 Shostakovich Cello Concerto No.1: 11 June 2013
    Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Daniel Harding, Sydney Opera House
    More info  

    “Her bow drew limitless nuance and invention from that wonky, sly opening theme, never allowing its frequent reiterations to lose potency. She exerted the same thrall over the third movement’s long, meditative cadenza with its ominous pizzicato chords and harmonics answered by eerie celesta.”
    Melissa Lesnie, Limelight

    “Cellist Alisa Weilerstein again displayed her brilliant capacity to live inside the music, like one possessed yet retaining supreme instrumental command. With fierce outer movements, and a cadenza growing from numbed quiet to terrifying force, she moved beyond a virtuosic tour-de-force to reveal the music’s disturbing vision of humanity and its opposite.”
    **** Peter McCallum, The Sydney Morning Herald

  • 19 Feb 16 Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante: 17 February 2016
    City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Rafael Payare, Symphony Hall Birmingham
    More info  
    “Weilerstein displayed an intense partnership with her instrument … From the opening notes it was clear we were in for a warm, emotional time of it. By the end of the first movement, with interventions from different quarters of the orchestra but basically an improvisation for the cellist, you could sense that Weilerstein held the audience in the palm of her hand.”

     

  • 27 Sep 12 Shostakovich Cello Concerto No.1: 27 September 2012
    Hallé Orchestra/Mark Elder, Bridgewater Hall Manchester
    More info  

    “Alisa Weilerstein’s playing was technically and musically superb. In ensemble she was also excellent, humble enough to shrink into gravelly accompaniment occasionally and interacting closely with Principal Horn Laurence Rogers, who gave some very good solos.
    The first movement was relentless in its driving semiquavers, both orchestra and soloist showing good stamina to charge to a breathless finish. In the slow movement Weilerstein created an elegantly sly sound, slightly clipped in intensity and deeply uneasy. Her pianissimo line above the string section was brilliantly controlled, and she produced some flawless high harmonics The cadenza, uncommonly long at around seven minutes, was slowly brewed and well shaped, taking great relish in concurrent pizzicato and bowing before ascending to a frenetic transition into the third movement. Excess emotion was then shut away behind ferocious energy, even at quiet dynamics, and the music gathered momentum towards a flourishing close.”
    Rohan Strotton, BachTrack.com

  • 11 Jun 12 Shostakovich Cello Concerto No.1: 11 June 2012
    Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Pablo Heras-Casado Muziekgebouw Amsterdam
    More info  

    “Every once in a while you come across a soloist who redefines your conception of a piece of music. Dmitri Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No.1 is an extraordinary work, but it was only after this performance by Alisa Weilerstein that I realised quite how extraordinary it really is. Weilerstein delivered the most beautiful performance of the concerto I have seen, not only because of her technical skill but because of her interpretation. Her cello became like a river, flooding the concert hall with both her own and Shostakovich’s emotions. The cadenza in the third movement was breathtaking…Weilerstein carries her emotion in her face as well as in her playing, while remaining genuine and above all incredibly intense. The pure anguish in the music became almost tangible, making the listening experience verge on the painful. Not because the music hurt, but because it drew you into it and consumed you. This was quite a feat for the soloist and orchestra, and I do not expect to see this performance topped for a long time.”
    Renée Reitsma, BachTrack.com

  • 10 Apr 12 Elgar Cello Concerto: 5 April 2012
    Berlin Staatskapelle/Daniel Barenboim, Philharmonie Berlin
    More info  

    “Her performance on April 5 was absolutely flawless. It was especially remarkable for the silky tones of her pianos and pianissimos, most noticeable right near the end of the finale, just before the dramatic return of the opening recitative in E minor. Her diminuendo fermata on the B above middle C floated over the change in harmony in the orchestra. It was one of those ‘goosebump’ moments in which time seems to stand still. Here was a case of a perfect technique that is put to the use of making musical sense, and making it as expressive as possible.”
    Mai Kawabata, Strings Magazine

  • 12 Dec 11 Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante: 12 December 2011
    Sydney Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vanska, Sydney Opera House
    More info  

    “I would challenge anyone who claims to have seen a more thrilling
    display of cello virtuosity than that displayed by Weilerstein in Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto…Alisa Weilerstein performed the solo part as if it had been written for her. She was totally absorbed in the music. In the lyrical sections she produced a beautifully, rich, silky tone, while the frighteningly difficult virtuosic sections seemed to give her no trouble at all.”
    Oliver Brett, BachTrack.com

    “Inviting guest musicians Osmo Vänskä and Alisa Weilerstein to the Sydney Symphony makes an artistic match the muses approved of, not to mention the heavens … Alisa Weilerstein played with extraordinary maturity and depth of understanding in this enormous and exhausting piece. She has a great range of finely shaded timbres all of which she teases out with a grace which suits the beauty of the cello. She is certainly an amazing virtuoso, but what was more amazing was her interpretation of the music, not letting a phrase by without sharing her understanding of it, as if playing a solo piece in recital, even in a fast chromatic run, and how she seemed to leave the virtuosity of performance in the background to allow the music more room. Her phrasing and accenting, which is necessarily very complicated as Prokofiev has set out the music and not always clear as to meaning of ‘expression’, made perfect sense of hearing it, and still managed to have a warm, vocal manner.”
    Andrew Miller, The Berkshire Review

    “29-year-old American cellist Alisa Weilerstein soon upped the temperature with her dazzling performance of Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto for cello and orchestra with its scary runs up the top of the fingerboard and its lush, emphatic orchestration. She then put the icing on her Sydney Symphony debut with a delicately nuanced bouree from Bach’s cello suite No.3 as an encore.”
    Steve Moffat, Inner West Courier

  • 03 Dec 11 Shostakovich Cello Concerto No.1: 3 December 2011
    West Australian Symphony Orchestra/Paul Daniel, Perth Concert Hall
    More info  

    “It was in the slow movement of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No.1 that Alisa Weilerstein’s exceptional musicianship was heard to finest advantage. In this saddest of cello songs, she coaxed from her instrument a stream of sound so perfectly formed and so profoundly meaningful that it brought a tear to the eye … In the concerto’s lengthy cadenza, Weilerstein’s playing, throbbing with emotion, sounded like some utterance of unresolved grief – and in the finale, which came across as a barbaric, wild, grainy-toned dance, the soloist came as near to perfection as one could ever hope to experience … Avalanches of thoroughly deserved applause brought an encore, a beautiful, finely phrased account of a movement from one of Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites.”
    Neville Cohn, The West Australian

  • 27 Oct 11 Dvorak Cello Concerto: 27 October 2011
    City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Santtu-Matias Rouvali, Symphony Hall Birmingham
    More info  

    “Alisa Weilerstein was the soloist in the Dvorak Cello Concerto, her tones lovely and throaty, her bowing wonderfully fluent.”
    Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post

  • 27 Aug 10 Shostakovich Cello Concerto No.1: 27 August 2010
    BBC PROMS Minnesota Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vanska, Royal Albert Hall London
    More info  

    “The young American cellist Alisa Weilerstein was soloist in Shostakovich’s First Concerto, demonstrating that the music harbours intimacy and poignancy as well as more robust elements, and her performance was delivered with concentration and panache.”
    Geoffrey Norris, The Telegraph

    “Then Alisa Weilerstein gave a riveting performance in Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto…the young American not only chose a radically different path through the music — more soft-edged in timbre, less overtly freighted with emotion, and certainly less angry — but traversed this epic work with suppleness and authority.”
    **** Richard Morrison, The Times

    “A phenomenal young cellist, Alisa Weilerstein, pretty much stole the evening with her extraordinary account of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No.1…Weilerstein was the complete musical actress whose orations from hushed and furtive and fearful to ferociously assertive were gripping in the extreme.”
    **** Edward Seckerson, The Independent

    “The Bruckner was paired with Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto, played with understated virtuosity and sardonic humour by Alisa Weilerstein.”
    **** Tim Ashley, The Guardian

  • 13 Jun 09 Dvorak Cello Concerto: 13 June 2009
    Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Mark Elder, Chicago Symphony Center
    More info  

    “So daring was the playing of soloist Alisa Weilerstein and so committed the partnership of Elder and the CSO that Dvorak’s genius for complex creation as well as spinning out winning melodies was almost palpable. With a huge, almost athletic sound, Weilerstein, somehow combines intense physicality with a deep intellectualism. Old and much loved tunes seemed to be being written on the spot and there was real excitement in the air.”
    Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun Times

    “Her tone is huge and deep, and she has a wonderfully pliable way of shaping the singing lyricism. The cellist spanned the full emotional range from poignancy to ebullience, bringing out an abundance of sentiment while avoiding sentimentality.
    Elder had the orchestra players listening just as acutely to the cellist as she did to them, witness her tender duet with the clarinets in the slow movement. She tore into the outer movements with unbridled vigor, pulling back to a rapt hush to savor contrasting melodies.”
    John von Rhein, Chicago Times

Solo CD Reviews

“The performance [Kodaly Solo Sonata] is superb: totally secure in technique, rich in sonority, compellingly idiomatic in its rhapsodising, and exhilarating in the passages representing an entire band of village musicians.”
*****Anthony Burton, BBC Music Magazine

“The American virtuoso digs into Kodaly’s opening movement with the muscularity of a restless gravedigger and sustains fervid energy through to the finale, a half-crazed molto vivace that she treats with the colours of a small orchestra.”
**** Mark Valencia, Sinfini

“Weilerstein rises to the challenge with an arresting physicality.”
**** Claudia Pritchard, The Independent

“A widely varied programme that showcases her astonishing virtuosity.”
Steve Arloff, Music Web International

“Alisa Weilerstein is everything you’d want in a cello soloist: powerful sound, dynamite technique, intelligent interpretative personality. Weilerstein’s playing is authoritative throughout but in the Sheng, she’s revelatory. She manages to evoke the soundscape of Chinese traditional music – using a bare timbre, micro-variations in pitch, feathery bowing that scarcely grazes the strings, and a whole suite of non-standard techniques – while also making the most of the deep, flowing sound that only a cello can produce.”
David Larsen, The Metro

Decca CD Reviews

Shostakovich: Cello Concertos 1&2
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Pablo Heras-Casado

The Strad
“Masterly though Rostropovich’s recordings of Shostakovich’s cello concertos unquestionably are, his tendency to live through every note as though it might be his final utterance can feel overwrought at times. Alisa Weilerstein is no less physically propulsive and passionately committed, yet she imbues these scores with such a compelling sense of emotional narrative that it seems as though one were hearing the music for the first time.
Traditional readings of the First Concerto tend to be delivered at high voltage and emerge almost unremittingly from the ‘dark side’. By comparison, Weilerstein fearlessly explores the music’s rich vein of humanity so that it becomes less a sustained cry of anguish than a fully fleshed-out and deeply affecting sequence of poetic metaphors. She uncovers a warmth and tenderness in the Moderato second movement that makes the music with which it is surrounded feel all the more terrifying.
In her mesmerising account of the Second Concerto, her ability to mine the music’s expressive core is striking. Pablo Heras-Casado and the Bavarian RSO follow her every inch of the way and the engineering strikes a balance between warmth and detail.”

Hi-Fi Choice London (Jimmy Hughes)
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard these two concertos played with such attack and ferocity. Tempi are fast, and the soloist’s articulation is something to marvel at. Both performances are very intense and deeply felt, and the music exudes a white-hot immediacy . . . Clarity is excellent, and you can hear every detail . . . overall, the balance sounds natural and open, with a warm tonal bloom to the strings and winds.”

Audiophile Audition (Robert Moon)
“Riveting performances . . . [Cello Concerto no. 1]: The initial theme sung by the cello appears throughout the work becomes powerful and memorable. She renders the sad beginning of the second movement soulfully, then ends in a cloak of eerie desolation. A lengthy cadenza — a rondo separated by pizzicatos, ensues. This movement of still darkness gives way to shrieking woodwinds echoed by horns that begins the final movement. Here Weilerstein lets loose with a manic explosion that makes the ending exhilarating . . . [Cello Concerto no. 2]: The variety of moods and the composer’s brilliant orchestration make this a very powerful work. Weilerstein’s passion and sensitivity make this a recording to savor. The recording balance captures the interplay between cello and orchestra with rich clarity . . . Weilerstein and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Pablo Heras-Casado have set a modern standard for these masterpieces.”

The Daily Telegraph London (Ivan Hewett)
“. . . [in the 1st concerto Weilerstein] has a huge authority and massive tone which saves the furious-passages from sounding merely febrile . . . in the 2nd movement she gives the second melody an uncanny purity . . . as if the cello is opening a window on to a better world. Weilerstein gives this a lovely understated quality, and it’s only in the furious climax towards the end that she lets herself off the leash. It’s a startling moment which makes the final bleached-out ending even more impressive.”

Wholenote Magazine Toronto (David Olds)
“. . . [he recordings] are both impeccable . . . Try as I might I can’t hear any evidence of the audience, but there is certainly the dynamic sense of excitement of a live performance. I’m very happy to add this new offering to my collection.”

Classical Voice North America (Paul E. Robinson)
“A bona fide world-class soloist, with this fine new recording on a major label, Weilerstein can fairly claim to be the most outstanding cellist to emerge in America since Yo-Yo Ma . . . her performance of each one on this CD is technically superb and deeply communicative . . . [Cello Concerto no. 1]: Weilerstein shows that she is now totally inside the piece . . . Heras-Casado gets fully committed performances from the Bavarian orchestra and is clearly on the same wavelength as his soloist. Weilerstein’s intensity never lets up, and she makes every note count in the long cadenza . . . [Cello Concerto no. 2]: Weilerstein’s performance of the Second Concerto is magnificent. She manages the fearsome technical demands with no obvious strain and powerfully conveys the sense of struggling against one’s fate before succumbing to the inevitable. Again, Heras-Casado and his players do their part, going all out in the massive orchestral tutti in the final movement. This long, complex, and richly expressive movement has never sounded more coherent or lingered in the memory so long afterwards. The recording quality is outstanding.”

San Francisco Chronicle (Joshua Kosman)
“. . . at her finest, Weilerstein brings a rare and combustible eloquence to a range of repertoire, and her new recording of the two Shostakovich concertos with conductor Pablo Heras-Casado is often powerful and even mesmerizing . . . The First Concerto gets an agile and athletic reading here, full of dark energy and crisp rhythms, but it also has a hectoring edge as well as the tonal rawness that is a Weilerstein trademark. The real glory of the disc is the Second Concerto . . . Weilerstein and Heras-Casado make the broad first movement into an exquisitely personal rhapsody, at once introspective and urgent; the puckish feints and mood switches of the final movement sound surprisingly cogent.”ClassicsToday.com (David Hurwitz)
“. . . everything goes right . . . the energized young Pablo Heras-Casado takes the podium, and wrings every dark, twitchy, sardonic drop of color from Shostakovich’s carefully judged musical lines. So, for that matter, does Weilerstein. She attacks the First Concerto with abandon, employing swift tempos, sharp accents, and a level of what can only be called “neurotic precision” perfect in this music. Best of all is the slowish second movement, here a true moderato that builds to climaxes of powerful lyrical intensity. She also paces the long cadenza in such a way that it truly holds together and spills over naturally into the finale . . . Weilerstein is just as persuasive in the less popular Second Concerto . . . Her shaping of the long, rhapsodic opening slow movement couldn’t be better. Yes, the music is brooding, but also soulful and flowing. The quirky central scherzo and final variations, bound together as a unit, take us back into territory more similar to the First Concerto, and we have already heard how comfortable Weilerstein is there. She’s especially pointed in the fanfare and march elements that pervade this music — sharp but never unmusical — and the way she comes to rest on that long final note under ticking percussion, fading to almost nothing before a last, sudden crescendo, has got to be just what the composer ordered. It only remains to be said that the engineering, finally, gives Weilerstein the canvas that she deserves on which to work. The balance rightly offers her solo prominence, but never at the expense of the orchestra . . . There are now many excellent versions of these concertos, both individually and together, but this release more than justifies the duplication.”

MusicWeb International (Dave Billinge)
“This remarkable young cellist achieves something I would not expect from any performer in these circumstances . . . These two performances are unique in countless ways. Her tempos are not the same as other cellists. She sometimes interprets the marked dynamics in the score in unexpected, yet justifiable ways. Tiny unwritten diminuendos and crescendos are almost a trademark here and the splendid Bavarian Radio Symphony follow her closely . . . It is all quite fascinating to hear . . . both performances have the electricity of an uninterrupted rendering . . . In case anyone thinks this replaces Rostropovich I must emphasize it does not . . . I would, however, urge all Shostakovich enthusiasts to purchase this magnificent CD as well . . . this CD is clean and clear and has a considerable amount of spaciousness . . . The subtle use of percussion is present without being thrust in one’s face and Weilerstein’s cello is allowed a very wide dynamic range without ever disappearing.”

Financial Times London (Richard Fairman)
“Weilerstein responds with playing that puts a premium on subtlety and inner intensity. What we have here is not a typically spontaneous Rostropovich bearhug, more a deeply considered embrace.”

 

Rachmaninov/Chopin: Cello Sonatas
Inon Barnatan

Sinfini Music **** (Norman Lebrecht)
“A musical conversation between equals, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan bring passion and drama to chamber works by Chopin and Rachmaninov.”

The Guardian **** (Erica Jeal)
“Alisa Weilerstein and Inon Barnatan are well paired in this disc of sonatas by composers better known for piano music, both writing for cellists who were their close friends. Rachmaninov’s mammoth Cello Sonata was written in 1901, as was the Piano Concerto No 2. Weilerstein brings to it an expansive, sweeping lyricism, with a surprising amount of tone in reserve for the big moments. Barnaton’s playing is just as eloquent: beautifully light and supple one moment, biting the next, always nuanced, and steering the music surely. The Chopin Sonata, a valedictory work, gets just the right balance of doubt and resolve; the long first movement has a searching quality that really holds the ear. There are also three shorter concert pieces, including a transcription of Chopin’s piano Étude in C sharp minor which, with Weilerstein’s long, singing phrases and juicy slides, sounds as much a song without words as does Rachmaninov’s Vocalise.”

 

Dvorak Cello Concerto
Czech Philharmonic / Jiri Belohlavek

The Daily Telegraph ***** (Geoffrey Norris)
In the concerto, the Czech orchestra and conductor, for whom this music must
be second nature, establish a backcloth that is warm, luminous and animated by a tangy freshness, as indeed is the playing of Weilerstein. Hers is an interpretation of passion. It is by no means heart-on-sleeve but, rather, it is distinguished by well-harnessed vigour and attack, susceptibility to the music’s lyrical heart, and by a range of tone that traces the concerto’s expressive contours with the assurance, sweep and attention to nuance that derive both from mature artistry and from a deep understanding of the music’s emotional trajectory. There is a spine-tingling thrill and generosity of feeling to this performance that make it irresistible.

Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times
“Following her remarkable Decca debut coupling of the Elgar and Elliott Carter concertos with Daniel Barenboim and his Staatskapelle Berlin, we now get this glorious account of the Dvorak concerto from Weilerstein…Her musicianship amply evokes the composer’s nostalgic love of the natural world. The concerto was written during his American sojourn, but it lives and breathes the air of the Czech countryside and its music. She has chosen ideal partners in Belohlavek and the Czech Philharmonic: the first movement’s horn solo is almost as gorgeous as Weilerstein’s big-hearted, impassioned, yet, when necessary, introspective playing, and she gives way to the “woodland” clarinet, oboe and flute solos in the passages where the cello accompanies them. This is an account to rank with accounts by Rostropovich, Fournier and du Pré, sumptuously recorded by Decca’s engineers.”

 

Elgar & Carter Cello Concerti
Staatskapelle Berlin / Daniel Barenboim

Norman Lebrecht – *****
“For sheer courage, strong convictions and fabulous playing, nothing less than five stars will do…I find her reinterpretation of the concerto utterly convincing”

BBC Music Magazine – Recording of the Month ***** (Calum MacDonald)
“Each concerto is a masterwork in its own terms and together they add up to a superb showcase for the talents of a gifted soloist … Weilerstein avoids nostalgia and produces instead an account that is full of passion, grief and nobility of feeling.”

The Mail on Sunday – ***** (David Mellor)
“This performance demands to be heard by any Elgarian, and for me, takes its place at or near the top of the list.”

The Financial Times – ***** (Andrew Clark)
“The young American invests the musical line with the sort of judicious portamento that was out of fashion 50 years ago, and she captures a nervous energy in the second movement … The reading has warmth, temperament, lyrical intensity: Weilerstein makes the Adagio really sing, without lapsing into sentimentality.”
The Times – **** (Geoff Brown)
“Within the first seconds, we know that Weilerstein speaks with her own voice. The muscular bowing, the sound’s depth and warmth in the opening bars: you couldn’t ask for a more characterful beginning … This is an extremely exciting and rewarding account.”

Gramophone Magazine (Peter Dickinson)
“The changing moods of the Scherzo are perfectly caught; the Adagio is effective … and the last Lento in the finale makes an emotional climax … Her developing band of fans will devour this CD.”

The Strad – The Strad Recommends (Tim Homfray)
“This is a noble performance, warm, heartfelt and splendidly played. She is magisterial and dignified in the opening movement, and shows terrific light-footed rhythmic felicity in the second … Weilerstein produces muscular, passionate playing in Carter’s Concerto … She handles Carter’s technical demands with aplomb.”

Independent – **** (Andy Gill)
“She grasps the Elgar from the opening of the Adagio Moderato and stamps her character upon it.”

The Guardian – **** (Andrew Clements)
“Weilerstein’s approach is impressively bold and big-boned…Weilerstein characterises its [Carter] sequence of linked movement types wonderfully”