A star was born 26 years ago. Cellist Weilerstein steals show at symphony

09.27.08
Alisa Weilerstein
Local News 5 A-J Entertainment

A star was born 26 years ago.

Lubbock discovered her Friday night.

Lubbock Symphony Orchestra patrons hurried to the lobby at intermission to buy compact discs by the evening's featured guest artist, classical cellist Alisa Weilerstein.

Had Weilerstein T-shirts and bumper stickers also been available, they would have sold in an equal frenzy.

"Oh ... my ... God!" was the common phrase overheard after Weilerstein raised both an eyebrow and momentum and personally challenged the orchestra during the final minutes of Tchaikovsky's "Variations on a Rococo Theme."

The ensemble played beautifully at Friday's season-opening concert, a performance where one expected to find LSO music director Tomasz Golka cheered for accepting a two-year contract extension.

But this was Weilerstein's night, and only fools and the unfortunate will not rush to buy up remaining tickets for her repeat performance of the Tchaikovsky at the orchestra's 8 p.m. concert today.

Touted as a possible successor to Yo-Yo Ma, Weilerstein emerged as that rare musician whose instrument seems an extension of her own spirit. How else could she express such power, or find such unbridled colors within a cello's strings?

True, she has played "Variations on a Rococo Theme" many times with many orchestras.

It is a piece she has perfected. From my vantage point, it also appeared that her performance had drawn tears of appreciation from gifted concertmaster John Gilbert.

Perfectly understandable, as Friday's performance could have lured appreciative tears from Tchaikovsky, were it only possible for the late composer to hear her playful, yet always intelligent interpretation.

Golka introduced Weilerstein as a longtime friend; that is the only way local fans have a chance to see her again here.

Lubbock's orchestra won't be able to afford her soon.