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American cellist Alisa Weilerstein’s recording of the cello concertos of Edward Elgar (opus 85) and Elliot Carter is to be released in Australian on May 10th. Weilerstein’s debut on the Decca Classics label is recorded with the Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Daniel Barenboim. Also on the recording, Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei opus 47.
It’s breathtaking programming for the 30 year old cellist, presenting two major works, each iconic in its own way.
The legendary cellist Jacqueline du Pré recorded Elgar’s Cello Concerto with Sir John Barbirolli in 1965. The recording is considered a gold standard and du Pré’s name became synonymous with Elgar’s 1919 composition. As if that wasn’t enough baggage, Wielerstein has made her recording with Barenboim who was married to du Pré as multiple sclerosis so so tragically and prematurely sapped her of her talent. Jacqueline du Pré stopped performing at the ge of 28 and died aged 42. Barenboim recorded Elgar’s cello concerto with du Pré just once in 1970. It was their first recording together. This is the first time Barenboim has recorded the concerto since du Pré died.The experience of this recording must surely remind him of the past.
Alisa Weilerstein herself was inspired by du Pré . “I first heard Elgar’s Cello Concerto when I was about seven or eight and was drawn to it instantly, haunted by it”, she recalls. “I listened to Jacqueline du Pré’s recording almost as a daily ritual. She became my childhood heroine. But when I was twelve and started working seriously on the piece, I knew I had to put her recordings aside. Her interpretation was so convincing, so powerful. I had to force myself to find my own way.”
Fast forward to the 21st century and to the music of Elliot Carter who died last December and whom music critic Virgil Thomson described as America’s most admired composer of learned music and the one most solidly esteemed internationally,”. Elliott Carter’s Cello Concerto, commissioned for Yo-Yo Ma by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, dates from September 2001. here too the link with Barenboim is powerful as he conducted its premiere performance in Chicago’s Symphony Hall.
Born in 1982 Weilerstein started learning the cello aged four and made her performance debut aged 13 with Cleveland Orchestra. She made her Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Youth Symphony in 1997, with the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta in January 2007 and with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Daniel Barenboim in April 2010.
The New York Times describes her as “a throwback to an earlier age of classical performers: not content merely to serve as a vessel for the composer’s wishes, she inhabits a piece fully and turns it to her own ends.”
Alisa Weilerstein performs the Cello Concerto No.1, Op.107 by Shostakovich with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra conducted by Daniel Harding, at the Sydney Opera House on June 11th.
She plays a cello made by William Forster in 1790.
The CD review in The New Yorker
Alisa Weilerstein “Elgar/Carter: Cello Concertos” (Decca), the Staatskapelle Berlin orchestra, conducted by Daniel Barenboim.