Alisa Weilerstein
The New York Times

By Steve Smith

The recorded catalog is full of worthy recordings of Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, a sublime 1919 work by an English master deeply affected by the horrors of World War I and, probably, by his own declining primacy. Yet no work in the standard repertory is more closely associated with a sole interpreter: Jacqueline du Pré, the tragically short-lived English virtuoso, made the concerto her own in a benchmark 1965 recording.

In committing a new interpretation to record Alisa Weilerstein, a gifted and deeply expressive young American, subjects herself to comparison with du Pré’s indelible rendition. Ms. Weilerstein’s partner on the podium is Daniel Barenboim, who was married to du Pré, performed and recorded the concerto with her and did not return to it for many years after her death.

With an incandescent 2010 concert performance featuring the Berlin Philharmonic already available on DVD, Ms. Weilerstein and Mr. Barenboim here return to the concerto with the very fine Berlin Staatskapelle. Their interpretation is one of poise, heft and ardor, the soloist’s superb control keenly matched by the conductor’s insightful support. If in the end du Pré’s version feels slightly more spontaneous, Ms. Weilerstein’s account persuades with its lyrical urgency and regal command.

In pairing the Elgar with Elliott Carter’s Cello Concerto, from 2000, Ms. Weilerstein asserts her own identity while also taking advantage of Mr. Barenboim’s affinity for Mr. Carter’s idiom. Again alertly accompanied, Ms. Weilerstein savors Mr. Carter’s mercurial shifts and puckish gestures. Wisely, she invests the more ruminative passages of Mr. Carter’s eruptive work with the same luxuriant expressiveness that enriches her Elgar, to compelling effect. A prayerfully spun rendition of Max Bruch’s “Kol Nidre” concludes this most distinguished offering.