Saturday, December 13, 2008

Alisa Weilerstein Recital

Alisa Weilerstein, cello
Inon Barnatan, piano

Thursday, December 11, 8pm
Herbst Theatre

BEETHOVEN: Sonata No. 5 in D Major, Op. 102, No. 2
KODÁLY: Sonata for Solo Cello, Op. 8
CHOPIN: Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60
CHOPIN: Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 65

I had not heard of Weilerstein before. Judging by the small talk of people around me at Herbst on Thursday night, she has a lot of fans. After reading her bio, I see that she is a seasoned performer at only 26.

During the opening Beethoven Sonata she exchanged a lot of glances with her accompanist, & they both looked like they were doing a lot, though I'm not sure I heard as much as I saw. Weilerstein does make big sound, & her high notes are exceptionally powerful. She has a strong left hand.

The Kodály Sonata was the centerpiece of the program. It's a long work & is a severe test of cello technique. It has a ton of left hand pizzicato, harmonics, double-stops, you name it. Weilerstein confidently tackled it from memory. She's a wildly physical performer, & she gives the appearance of being possessed by the music instead of being in control of it. She can be a rough player, & she muscled her way through the piece. It all sounded anguished & doleful, though I think there are more moods than that in it. It was well-received by the audience, with shouts of "Brava!" & a few people standing.

She had a similarly bluff approach to the Golijov piece, also for solo cello. The composer's notes indicate that the piece takes its inspiration from the tango, but I didn't get any sense of the dance from Weilerstein's fast & loud interpretation.

I guess I have my doubts from a musical point of view. Yet these were not poor performances. For me the duo just felt very packaged. The main impression I have of her accompanist is that he looked slim & chic.

As an encore, the duo reprised the slow movement from the Chopin Sonata.

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