Alisa Weilerstein is still fresh to Decca, but a little over a year after releasing the Elgar and Carter concertos, here she is with the Dvorak. She is gifted with a dynamic musical personality that clearly stands out as something extraordinary. The Dvorak Cello Concerto is grand and beautiful, but it's fairly easy to run through this piece, with the cello modestly leaving much of the show to the orchestra, which has a fully involving accompaniment, after all. But here Weilerstein completely dominates, with force that brings familiar bars fresh life. She digs in with raw emotion--a trademark of hers--enabling the music to have a feeling of greater flow, almost inevitability. Yet everything sounds natural and spontaneous so that one feels more lyricism.
Actually, this reading makes little of its impact through sheer force, at least when compared to the classic Rostropovich/Karajan reading. Much of that is due to Jiri Belohlavek and the Czech Philharmonic, who are sensitive but more lean in tone than usual, leaving the spotlight decidely on Weilerstein. Karajan and the Berliners produced a rich, sweltering sound that was as captivating as Rostropovich's playing. Here the Czech Phil is gentle, sounding idiomatic instead of powerful. I sometimes wish Belohlavek could have been more energized, letting the orchestra off the reigns instead of aiming for refined beauty--the very closing bars don't overwhelm you like they should. Such complaints are hardly major in the face of how wonderful Weilerstein is, however. She weaves every phrase with the genuine commitment of a master. Has anyone else made the concerto so personal? At times Weilerstein borders on private, drawing us to a world of aching tenderness in the second movement. I can only offer praise.
At first glance, Decca's timing seems very stingy and while it's not generous, the selections accompanied by Anna Polonsky feature the same involving playing. We move from the opulent sweetness of "Goin' Home" to the gypsy-flavored Slavonic Dance No. 8, all done with charisma that is spell-binding. The accompaniment is also very fine, so I was nearly as impressed with the fillers as with the concerto.
I have the feeling that Weilerstein may be the kind of rare talent one looks for once a generation. In any event, here is a reading of one of the most popular works in the repertoire that is transforming, a true testament to her gifts.