Weilerstein responds with playing that puts a premium on subtlety and inner intensity. What we have here is not a typically spontaneous Rostropovich bearhug, more a deeply considered embrace.
This remarkable young cellist achieves something I would not expect from any performer in these circumstances . . . These two performances are unique in countless ways. Her tempos are not the same as other cellists. She sometimes interprets the marked dynamics in the score in unexpected, yet justifiable ways. Tiny unwritten diminuendos and crescendos are almost a trademark here and the splendid Bavarian Radio Symphony follow her closely . . . It is all quite fascinating to hear . . . both performances have the electricity of an uninterrupted rendering . . . In case anyone thinks this replaces Rostropovich I must emphasize it does not . . . I would, however, urge all Shostakovich enthusiasts to purchase this magnificent CD as well . . . this CD is clean and clear and has a considerable amount of spaciousness . . . The subtle use of percussion is present without being thrust in one's face and Weilerstein's cello is allowed a very wide dynamic range without ever disappearing.
. . . the playing is extremely accomplished . . . [in the First Concerto, I like] the nagging insistence of the opening, and the Bavarian hornist is tonally one of the fullest and steadiest I have heard . . . Weilerstein really does hold the emotion in check, letting the music make its compassionate, rather than passionate mark. Another sign of outstanding musicianship at work is that the balance between soloist and orchestra is a constant delight . . . The story is similar in the Second Concerto. A longer review would find far more to praise than to blame here . . . bravo to the Bavarian horns for their Janáceky whoopings around the nine-minute mark, and to Decca's engineering for capturing such moments, and many others, in such ravishing detail.
. . . everything goes right . . . the energized young Pablo Heras-Casado takes the podium, and wrings every dark, twitchy, sardonic drop of color from Shostakovich's carefully judged musical lines. So, for that matter, does Weilerstein. She attacks the First Concerto with abandon, employing swift tempos, sharp accents, and a level of what can only be called "neurotic precision" perfect in this music. Best of all is the slowish second movement, here a true moderato that builds to climaxes of powerful lyrical intensity. She also paces the long cadenza in such a way that it truly holds together and spills over naturally into the finale . . . Weilerstein is just as persuasive in the less popular Second Concerto . . . Her shaping of the long, rhapsodic opening slow movement couldn't be better. Yes, the music is brooding, but also soulful and flowing. The quirky central scherzo and final variations, bound together as a unit, take us back into territory more similar to the First Concerto, and we have already heard how comfortable Weilerstein is there. She's especially pointed in the fanfare and march elements that pervade this music -- sharp but never unmusical -- and the way she comes to rest on that long final note under ticking percussion, fading to almost nothing before a last, sudden crescendo, has got to be just what the composer ordered. It only remains to be said that the engineering, finally, gives Weilerstein the canvas that she deserves on which to work. The balance rightly offers her solo prominence, but never at the expense of the orchestra . . . There are now many excellent versions of these concertos, both individually and together, but this release more than justifies the duplication.
. . . at her finest, Weilerstein brings a rare and combustible eloquence to a range of repertoire, and her new recording of the two Shostakovich concertos with conductor Pablo Heras-Casado is often powerful and even mesmerizing . . . The First Concerto gets an agile and athletic reading here, full of dark energy and crisp rhythms, but it also has a hectoring edge as well as the tonal rawness that is a Weilerstein trademark. The real glory of the disc is the Second Concerto . . . Weilerstein and Heras-Casado make the broad first movement into an exquisitely personal rhapsody, at once introspective and urgent; the puckish feints and mood switches of the final movement sound surprisingly cogent.
A bona fide world-class soloist, with this fine new recording on a major label, Weilerstein can fairly claim to be the most outstanding cellist to emerge in America since Yo-Yo Ma . . . her performance of each one on this CD is technically superb and deeply communicative . . . [Cello Concerto no. 1]: Weilerstein shows that she is now totally inside the piece . . . Heras-Casado gets fully committed performances from the Bavarian orchestra and is clearly on the same wavelength as his soloist. Weilerstein's intensity never lets up, and she makes every note count in the long cadenza . . . [Cello Concerto no. 2]: Weilerstein's performance of the Second Concerto is magnificent. She manages the fearsome technical demands with no obvious strain and powerfully conveys the sense of struggling against one's fate before succumbing to the inevitable. Again, Heras-Casado and his players do their part, going all out in the massive orchestral tutti in the final movement. This long, complex, and richly expressive movement has never sounded more coherent or lingered in the memory so long afterwards. The recording quality is outstanding.
. . . [he recordings] are both impeccable . . . Try as I might I can't hear any evidence of the audience, but there is certainly the dynamic sense of excitement of a live performance. I'm very happy to add this new offering to my collection.
. . . [in the 1st concerto Weilerstein] has a huge authority and massive tone which saves the furious-passages from sounding merely febrile . . . in the 2nd movement she gives the second melody an uncanny purity . . . as if the cello is opening a window on to a better world. Weilerstein gives this a lovely understated quality, and it's only in the furious climax towards the end that she lets herself off the leash. It's a startling moment which makes the final bleached-out ending even more impressive.
. . . [Shostakovich 1]: the soloist communicates a mournful, deep introspection . . . Rising to the challenges of the writing, Weilerstein relishes the anxiety laden Cadenza . . . Weilerstein generates an abundance of edgy, nervous energy in the Finale . . . Under Heras-Casado, the violent conclusion to the movement makes a striking impact . . . [Shostakovich 2]: The darkly brooding intensity of Weilerstein's cello provides a spine tingling effect. In the relatively short Scherzo, the soloist's dynamic playing cuts through the terse and highly rhythmic orchestral writing . . . Weilerstein brings an aching sadness and introspection, a mood that underpins the remainder of the movement. In the challenging emotional cross-currents of both scores, Weilerstein communicates remarkable assurance with absorbing playing of steadfast control and a steely beauty . . . The Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks knows these works extremely well and under Pablo Heras-Casado demonstrates a splendid rapport with the soloist. Without question, the playing of the Munich orchestra is entirely committed with its melodic and dramatic elements so well balanced by Heras-Casado . . . In the Shostakovich cello concertos the partnership of Weilerstein and Pablo Heras-Casado is compellingly fruitful. These are performances of real distinction . . .
Riveting performances . . . [Cello Concerto no. 1]: The initial theme sung by the cello appears throughout the work becomes powerful and memorable. She renders the sad beginning of the second movement soulfully, then ends in a cloak of eerie desolation. A lengthy cadenza -- a rondo separated by pizzicatos, ensues. This movement of still darkness gives way to shrieking woodwinds echoed by horns that begins the final movement. Here Weilerstein lets loose with a manic explosion that makes the ending exhilarating . . . [Cello Concerto no. 2]: The variety of moods and the composer's brilliant orchestration make this a very powerful work. Weilerstein's passion and sensitivity make this a recording to savor. The recording balance captures the interplay between cello and orchestra with rich clarity . . . Weilerstein and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Pablo Heras-Casado have set a modern standard for these masterpieces.
This one's for anyone who appreciates great music performed with care and passion.
I don't think I've ever heard these two concertos played with such attack and ferocity. Tempi are fast, and the soloist's articulation is something to marvel at. Both performances are very intense and deeply felt, and the music exudes a white-hot immediacy . . . Clarity is excellent, and you can hear every detail . . . overall, the balance sounds natural and open, with a warm tonal bloom to the strings and winds.
The brilliant Weilerstein tackles Shostakovich's fiendishly testing cello masterpieces head-on.
Alisa Weilerstein is well-matched to the First Concerto: fierce, tight and articulate, this account fairly crackles. She etches a burning line, powered by a rhythmic elasticity that trumps any degree of glistening tonal beauty. Through the first movement she ratchets up tension, picking up the glaring theme from the horns, transforming it from a plangent wail into a scream. There's no let-up in intensity in a Moderato of impressive sweep, and a strong sense of apprehension keeps her cadenza compelling . . . [Shostakovich 2]: High seriousness marks Weilerstein's lyrical first movement . . . Pablo Heras-Casado and his forces create chamber-like episodes of luminous intimacy. Weilerstein spins a subtle narrative thread, holding her nerve magnificently in the blazing fanfares of the Scherzo, unleashing an assertive fury; I love the way she almost swings the middle section with its wild swoops and jazzy grand-standing. She brings a thrilling edginess to the finale . . .