Chee-Yun and Alisa Weilerstein at the Kravis Center

01.16.08
Chee-Yun , Alisa Weilerstein
Palm Beach Post

WEST PALM BEACH - Any concert featuring two instrumentalists - unless at least one is a pianist - is definitely an oddball. Even more, it takes two far-reaching individuals to take the event from the exception to the exceptional.

Fortunately, Regional Arts found two, and on very short notice. Monday night's concert was to be the much-anticipated return of the excellent Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. But an impasse in labor negotiations prevents the orchestra from performing even in its hometown, much less on tour.

Fortunately for the Kravis Center audience, the orchestral program featured two remarkable young soloists - violinist Chee-Yun and cellist Alisa Weilerstein. Originally, Jacksonville Music Director Fabio Mechetti brought them together for the Brahms Double Concerto.

Despite the unusual combination of violin and cello, the women's program of Ravel and Kodaly duos plus Golijov and Kreisler solos kept listeners spellbound. Powerfully impassioned playing, exquisite musicianship and nearly ideal interaction turned an orchestra's cancellation into a young artists' celebration. And how endearing was it to hear delightfully chatty introductions before each work. Both artists spoke extemporaneously as there had been no time to add program notes to Kravis' printed playbill.

Regional Arts Coordinator Susan Tilley read a message from the Jacksonville orchestra explaining its no-show. But whether from unfamiliarity, disinterest or disappointment, a mere fraction of the Regional Arts audience had turned out to hear the duo. Even more ticket holders bailed after a serious first half of Osvaldo Golijov's Omaramor for Solo Cello and Ravel's Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7.

Hard-core listeners remained undaunted and positively cheered the pair on. After the roars of approval and a standing ovation, the pair rewarded listeners with another meaty work as the super-charged encore: Handel's Passacaglia transcribed by Halvorson for violin and cello. Afterward, the two were practically mobbed backstage by well-wishers.

Although thoroughly professional, there was nothing impersonal about either artist. Chee-Yun, in her 30s, has played at Kravis several times, including with chamber group Charles Wadsworth and Friends.

A native of Seoul, Korea, she has been winning highest acclaimed since her 1993 debut CD. Her solo, the Kreisler Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice, Op. 6, played from memory, featured impressive virtuoso playing full of personality, yet clean and sparkling despite the high speeds.

At age 25, Cleveland-born cellist Alisa Weilerstein is one to watch. She poured an unbelievable degree of conviction and passion into everything she played, from her soulful tango-like Golijov solo, to the dramatic Ravel and gorgeous Kodaly with Chee-Yun. She, too, has played in the area, including at the Duncan Theatre with her parents as the Weilerstein Trio.