on 29 May 2014
I heard about this recording and how marvellous it is, but it remained unpurchased in my wishlist for ages because I was cynical about the hype surrounding any new artist, especially a first performance so soon after the composers death. The Carter is, for Carter, accessible and musical, obviously more modern than the Elgar but not outrageous or experimental in any way. The two pieces were not paired for purely marketing reasons, there is a similarity of idiom- probably enhanced by Weilerstein's approach- which this disc emphasises. Most importantly, the Elgar does not sound like a weak alternative to the Du Pre recording; if you have du Pre but have avoided buying two recordings of the same composition this would be a very good start to the collectors habit of 'compare and contrast'- maybe expensive, but certainly worthwhile! You will probably end up collecting Carter too, an amazing man.
on 7 September 2014
I find this recording rather confusing because of the contrast between the two main works that show the shift in classical music in the 20th century. The Elgar is a beautifully melodic work with stormy passages reflecting the time at which it was written , the Carter work was written in 2001 and is a very different work with jagged rhythms and the orchestra occasionally bursting through. The work is of course wonderfully performed by Alisa Weilerstein and Daniel Barenboim [with the Staatskapelle Berlin]. my problem with the album lies with the choice of material although it may be an interesting choice for the performers and aficionados, but for the general listener who likes Elgar they might find the Carter piece too much of a change, the extra piece by Max Bruch is a better fit. So for the general listener I feel this is a bit too much of a contrast, but I must say that I found the contrast of two pieces almost a century apart an interesting experience.
on 18 February 2013
As we all know, taste in music is very personal - one person's loves are often another's hates. I bought this for the Elgar, which I have always loved since hearing La Du Pre's celebrated version (and I have on vinyl). But I cannot afford the space to have my record deck out, so when I heard about Wellerstein, I thought I would get it for my iPod library. I don't regret the decision.
I'm struggling with the Carter concerto, but maybe I will get to like it in time.
'Kol Nidrei' is simply beautiful!
4 1/2 stars -- and that's no criticism of Weilerstein or Barenboim, for as Ralph Moore says, "Barenboim and the typically accomplished Staatskapelle Berlin take a back seat to their soloist and the recording favours her unnaturally in ensemble - but one must expect that; the sound is otherwise wonderful." I disagree with RM only to the extent that I don't think we have to expect the degree of spotlighting of the solo instrument that we get here. It's a credit to Weilerstein and her technique that even as "in your face" as the soloist is, the effect isn't cloying or overpowering. In fact, her timings for the movements are pretty much the same as in my favorite recording, Heinrich Schiff's 1982 version with Marriner and the Dresden Staatskapelle. The Elgar is a great piece, up there with the Dvorak, and Weilerstein has the measure of its somber beauty. In particular, I was impressed by the handling of the final movement, the longest in the piece, which recapitulates and transforms material from the earlier movements. Weilerstein and Barenboim handle the transitions within the movement beautifully, so that both the movement and the whole concerto leave the listener feeling the organic unity of the piece. Weilerstein's playing of the cantabile parts -- the Adagio, of course -- is warm and wonderful, eloquent without ever descending to sentimentality. She always keeps the music moving forward, and Barenboim is as rhythmically alert as he is tonally attentive, and the Berlin Staatskapelle plays beautifully. The Bruch "Kol Nidrei," which is offered as a "bonus" here (!??*!), is similarly eloquently played.
The odd coupling, which some reviewers don't like, is the Elliott Carter Cello Concerto from 2001. I thought it was marvelous, and it was refreshing to hear its good-humored acerbities after the Elgar. Carter's interest in writing it, according to the program booklet, was to explore the resources of the cello, and he seems to go out of his way to resist the typical lyricism, with the effect that in about half the movements the writing for the cello seems cadenza-like and improvisational, while the orchestra tries to get its oar in by means of various percussive strategies. Weilerstein deploys the whole armory here -- from the lowest reaches of the instrument all the way the up, and the result is invigorating. The two slower sections pit the cello first against a high-lying orchestral shimmer, to beautiful effect (that's the Lento fourth section) and, in the sixth section, marked "Tranquillo," the accompaniment is deep in the woodwinds, with the cello employing an arresting raindrop pizzicato effect to create a lovely aura. The piece falls into seven sections, played without breaks, and is only 22 minutes long -- overall, it has the feel of a scherzo.
So . . . with my reservation about the sound balance only, I would recommend this CD. The playing is fine and the program unusual.
on 23 February 2013
I listened to this new and well-publicised recording of Elgar's classic concerto with much interest and anticipation.
However, with several other fine recordings of the work in my library, this is not a performance I personally would generally reccomend -particularly to anyone coming to the work for the first time.
Since Jacqueline du Pres' famous landmark -and now historic- recording of 1965, it has arguably been rather difficult for any subsequent cellist to stamp their own individual interpretation on the work without straying far from Elgar's own directions regarding tempi/dynamics etc in the score.
The concerto was Elgar's last substantial composition; and although its character appears full of a wistful reminiscence -almost a memorial perhaps- to the era which formed the substantial part of his long life, before the reckless waste of World War I, Elgar was very much a 'man of his time.' Edwardians -especially men- were not given to overt emotion or wearing of 'hearts on sleeves' -as his own recordings show.
Although the justly famous du Pres/Barbirolli EMI performance is a bold,dramatic and often poignant reading, I do not find it ever succumbs to melodrama (unlike perhaps the later du Pres/Barenboim recording.) There is surely a world of diffference between a performer bringing their own personality to an interpretation and merely using a composition as a vehicle of personal expression.
However -though not in any way criticising Alisa Weilerstein's generous tone and impeccable technique, I personally find that indulgent tamperings with Elgar's markings are often too extreme -to the point that some important phrases lose all sense of any 'line' or direction, such is the length to which they are drawn out. (To cite just one example: -the closing phrases of the famous Adagio.)
The Carter concerto is another matter. Here both Weilerstein and Barenboim serve this composer well.
However, for anyone coming to the Elgar conerto for the first time, I would personally suggest perhaps the Yo Yo Ma/Previn recording (whilst it is still available on this site -either at present as 'Used' or as a download.)Though never in any manner self-indulgent, it is nevertheless a most committed performance - yet far more faithful to Elgar's score.
on 17 May 2014
I heard Alisa Weilerstein play the Dvorak in Symphony Hall B'ham, 2012?
Enjoyed it very much, she is a gifted and spontaneous player.
I had high hopes therefore for this recording, and am sorry to be disappointed by it.
I find it over emotive to the point of twitchy, nerve-shredding, neurotic panic.
It is brilliantly played, no question ... but ...even alongside Du Pre, the high water mark in emotional engagement with this piece hitherto, Weilerstein, time and time again, puts MORE stress, MORE rubatto, MORE extremes of dynamic.
I'm not sure the piece survives this kind of extreme treatment.
The other problem is that the orchestra and soloist sound to have been recorded in different rooms. Cello is very close, orchestra is muffled and inner parts lack any clarity.
I seem the minority here - but I am not convinced by this as an interpretation.
on 5 February 2014
I heard this performance of Kol Nidrei on Classic FM while in the car and came straight home to buy the CD. What an absolutely fantastic cellist! The Elgar is also wonderful. Not being a fan of contemporary music, I'm afraid I have yet to listen to more than a few bars of the Carter - not my cup of tea!
on 17 July 2014
I hesitated about buying this, and worried that the Barenboim link with the great recording by Jacqueline Du Pre might be a bit gimmicky. Whilst nothing could replace the JDP recording for it's raw emotion and anguish, this is no less passionately felt. It won the BBC Music Magazine CD of the year, which was recommendation enough to try it and I wasn't disappointed. I'm less fond for the Carter coupling, but it is worth it for the Elgar alone - especially in this 100th anniversary of the Great War which this piece evokes. Weilerstein seems to respect that and I love this recording for that.
Sigh: thirty-plus reviews and no more than two or three which actually attempt to evaluate this recording in any depth or present a useful response from the point of view of an educated amateur listener. Even if we discount the morons who complain about download problems or the delivery service, there's not much to go on; my favourite is the "review" which says "I can't review this because I gave it to someone as a present and I haven't heard it." Give me strength.
Not that I can make any claims that this review will be a paradigm but let me at least try to put it in the context of other recordings and provide some sort of justification for what will always be a subjective reaction.
I had barely heard of Alisa Weilerstein - my bad - but a friend introduced me to this CD and it immediately made me prick up my ears, sit up and beg - then roll over. Having played it a few times now, I am faintly suspicious that I am being seduced by a marginally over-egged playing style which borders on an overt emotionalism not entirely consonant with the noble restraint Elgar probably intended - but I'm sorry, I love it.
Inevitable comparisons with the Du Pré recordings - the latter live with the young Barenboim - are odious and otiose; obviously Weilerstein studied them but the Barbirolli was taped in 1965 and the Barenboim in 1970, while Weilerstein was born in 1982, so let's move on here. Both are clearly big personalities in comparison to the more "British" approach favoured by such as Yo-Yo Ma, the "aristocratic" Fournier and the frequently overlooked but deeply moving version by Julian Lloyd Webber, but Du Pré is more released and tigerish; Weilerstein is more ripely Romantic. Barenboim and the typically accomplished Staatskapelle Berlin take a back seat to their soloist and the recording favours her unnaturally in ensemble - but one must expect that; the sound is otherwise wonderful.
So we hear an artist in the plenitude of her powers; one minor squawk up top apart during the fiendish "coloratura" passages and double stopping in the Allegro molto, this is superlative playing. The thing which immediately strikes the listener is the extraordinary depth and resonance of her tone; I think this is the lushest, plushest cello-playing I have ever heard. Although I haven't heard her live and allowing for recording manipulation, I suspect that she makes a bigger sound than Sol Gabetta, whose rather small-scale performance I heard in the Festival Hall in October 2012. She clearly takes a few minor liberties with markings but I would call that justifiable interpretation; certainly I am utterly convinced by the integrity of her conception.
The Kol Nidrei is given a similarly intense, brooding performance without tipping over into sentimentality. Ms Weilerstein is also apparently a champion of modern works; regarding the merits of the Elliott Carter concerto, I shall leave their elucidation to convicted Modernists. As far as I am concerned, it is unredeemed cacophony and I shall never play it again.
But the Elgar is set to be my favourite account in modern sound.
on 25 February 2013
This recording must be considered totally. It is not just the Elgar's Cello Concerto, but also the concert for cello by American composer Elliot Carter, who gave his approval to this reading before passing away recently. And the closing enconre, the Kol Nidrei by Max Bruch is moving and masterfully played. This is a well balanced recording: a young cellist prodigy paired with a veteran like Barenboim. The Elgar will immediately be opposed to the readings by Jacqueline Du Pre, including the seminal with Barbirolli and a great one with Barenboim later. Alisa points out she has studied the Du Pre readings with care since her early youth, but she tries her own approach here, avoiding to imitate Du Pre. And this is a good approach and her bravery yields good results. I do not manage technical or musicology details, but as a lover of music I feel very happy with the tempi and the expression on the Elgar reading. The player and the orchestra truly dialogue and there is a great sound. I enjoyed and I praise it as a new standard for the 21st century of this masterpiece. The Carter material is contemporary and idiosincratic. It takes more time to be felt and seems more "rational". It is a contemporary cello concerto opposed to a late-romantic one as the Elgar's. I guess it is more demanding and will be more exciting if watched, but I am getting to enjoy it. It is a work which takes advantage of all the resources of the cello and the blessing of the performance by the composer is key. The Kol Nidrei really touched me. It is a great bonus and her emotional power is perfectly catched here. It remains me the old reading by Casals, which is terrific. This young Alisa gives breath to an instrument which seemed lacking a flag performer after Rostropovich passed away. Long life to the queen ! Hope she delivers new material soon. I am awaiting in the future the Bach Cello Suites with anxiety.