GETTING TECHNICAL WITH… Alisa Weilerstein cellist

08.05.10
Alisa Weilerstein
BBC Magazine

HELPING TO BOOST HER global following, cellist Alisa Weilerstein was one of the first classical musicians to post footage of her performances online.  She makes her BBC Proms debut on 27 August, when she performs Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 with the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä, broadcast live via bbc.co.uk/proms/2010. (For tickets and information click here.)

Your performances are featured on YouTube, medicitv.com and, in August, on the BBC Proms site.  How important is it to be seen and not just heard?

Very.  I’ve always been a firm advocate of getting my music out there for people not just to hear, but also to see online.  I posted my performance of the Kodály Solo Sonata on my site in 2005 – before YouTube had even launched.  It’s a useful way of letting people know what I do.

But are you concerned about the amount of footage and music that is circulated online for free?

It’s true that there are things that I probably don’t even know about that are up there online, but it’s a trade-off: I’m grateful for the exposure that we’ve not had for so long in classical music.  I believe the transition to online viewing and downloads is absolutely essential if classical musicians are to survive.  Sadly, the downside is that our local record stores, like New York’s Tower Records, are gradually disappearing.

What are the gadgets you won’t leave home without?

I won’t go anywhere without my iPhone, which I connect to a good pair of Brookstone earphones so as to get a reasonable sound.  I also always travel with Macbook Pro so I can stay in touch with friends and family via Skype.  When it comes to online social networks, I’ll use Facebook occasionally, but I seem to have accumulated a ridiculous number of friends – around 1,800 at the last count.

And what MP3s have you been listening to lately?

The last piece I downloaded on iTunes was Britten’s Cello Symphony performed on Decca by Mstislav Rostropovich, for whom the piece was written.  Of the few recordings that have been made, this is undoubtedly the best – full of gut-wrenching emotion.

Alisa Weilerstein’s own site can be found at www.alisaweilerstein.com