Cellist Alisa Weilerstein at Sixth & I Synagogue

Alisa Weilerstein
The Washington Post

By Joe Banno

There's no better calling card for young cellists wishing to show off their chops than Britten's daunting Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 65. Alisa Weilerstein's performance of the work at her Washington Performing Arts Society recital at the Sixth & I Synagogue on Tuesday provided a checklist of the 27-year-old's qualities as one of her generation's finest players.

There was the crisp articulation and lightness of touch in the puckish "Dialogo" movement and the bruising attack in the Shostakovich-like "Marcia." She supplied as much bravura playing -- plucking, striking and strumming the strings -- in the Scherzo-pizzicato as she did heartfelt legato phrasing in the "Elegia" that followed it. And the concluding "Moto perpetuo" provided a mesmerizing display of speed and technical finish.

Later, De Falla's "Suite Populaire Espagnole" drew from Weilerstein that rare and elusive quality of vocal phrasing in the tone and showed a real flair for the rhythmic verve of Spanish melody. She was able to switch gears effectively for Chopin's G Minor Sonata for Cello and Piano, where her playing alternated between hushed rhapsody and torrents of gutsy tone. Very special too was the performance that opened the recital -- a beautifully poised reading of Beethoven's Sonata in D, Op. 102, No. 2, which pointed the piece toward the rapt profundities of the late piano sonatas and string quartets.

Throughout, Weilerstein's intonation was impeccable and her timbre lovely. Pianist Inon Barnatan matched her with imaginatively phrased keyboard work and with equally enthusiastic verve -- a true partner, rather than a mere accompanist.