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Customer Review

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soulful, doleful and very beautiful, 29 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Elgar & Carter: Cello Concertos (Audio CD)
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.
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