Review: Elgar Bruch Carter

02.01.13
Alisa Weilerstein
Gramophone Magazine

"The new du Pré" takes on Elgar's valedictory Concerto

By Peter Dickinson

It was brave of Weilerstein to sandwich Carter between Elgar and Bruch, but there are connections with Barenboim. He gave the first performance of the Carter with Yo-Yo Ma and the Chicago Symphony in 2001 and, of course, he recorded the Elgar with du Pré.

The young American cellist Alisa Weilerstein has been called the new du Pré and I can see why. Her Elgar is not as wayward as du Pré in the famous 1967 live performance with Barenboim and the Philadelphia Orchestra but it's still remarkably impressive. Weilerstein's first movement is more discursive that Tortelier with the LPO under Boult in 1973. The changing moods of the scherzo are perfectly caught; the Adagio is effective, with fewer portamentos that du Pré; and the last Lento in the finale makes an emotional climax.

The Carter Concerto comes from his productive final phase. The idiom is not as abrasive as his middle-period works but he still challenges the soloist. Weilerstein, who starts on her own, as in the Elgar, brings the same immaculate tonal control to bear. Carter said he aimed at 'meaningful, personal ways of revealing the cello's vast array of wonderful possibilities.' The soloist is mostly lyrical but the orchestra at times knocks the stuffing out of any sentimentality. The seven sections are continuous and the third one, marked giocoso, adds a touch of humour with some percussion.

The Bruch was written in Liverpool in 1881 when the composer was director of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society. Bruch was a reactionary who didn't like Liszt and Wagner but his Kol Nidrei is a fine vehicle for Weilerstein's gorgeous tone. Her developing band of fans will devour this CD.