Top positive review
10 people found this helpful
full blooded, but the balance . . .?
on 2 February 2014
I heard Alisa Weilerstein playing chamber music at Spoleto USA last year, and it was impressive. She's a natural communicator, and she brings her skills wonderfully to bear in this recording of the Dvorak Cello Concerto and the six "encores" that fill up the disc. There's nothing bland about this playing -- she can roughen the texture when she thinks it's appropriate; she can give us an almost woodwind-sounding warmth and roundness at other times; and up in the higher reaches there's no loss of body although the sound is pure. So this is a fine recording -- up there in my pantheon with Rostropovich, Lynne Harrell, and the under-rated Heinrich Schiff. If you like things a bit more restrained, Yo-Yo Ma's your man, but I find this wholehearted embrace of the lyricism very appealing. The orchestra is well forward in the picture, with Weilerstein arguably a little too forward herself, but this enables you to hear her playing in the lowest register not getting swallowed up by the orchestra, and I like that texturing. Belohlavek conducts with an ear for the orchestral textures, so that throughout, in the scoring's lighter moments, there's an almost chamber-like interplay. More than with most recordings, you realize with Weilerstein just how much variety there is in the cello part -- it's not just one big swoon. The six "encores" are finely played too, and well accompanied by Anna Polonsky. The "Goin' Home" arrangement is great, of course -- one of the great melodies -- but I liked the variety and spice of the Rondo, and both Polonsky and Weilerstein rattle the rafters in the Slavonic Dance. Maybe best of all, "Silent Woods" receives an intense performance that calls on the whole range of the cello.
UPDATE (Oct 2015): I have modified my rating to 4 stars. I stand by what I reported of the playing, but I have over time become bothered by the balance, and what bothered me was focused by hearing Wallfisch's excellent account with Mackerras. As I wrote in that review: "the engineering is the problem. Weilerstein's rich, warm sound is foregrounded in the aural picture (and very well caught by the recording), and her interactions with the winds and brass are also spotlit and, again, sound great, but the listener's attention is directed away from the forward movement of the music as a whole and leaves us savoring the details." The Chandos balance is much better, and Mackerras's conducting is more positive.