Alisa Weilerstein’s “Bach Cello Suites” is out now
After her acclaimed PENTATONE debut with Transfigured Night, Alisa Weilerstein returns with a complete recording of Bach’s Cello Suites. These pieces present the highest mountain to climb for any cellist, and one of the most transcendent and rewarding experiences for listeners alike. With his suites, Bach crafted — essentially without direct precedent — a body of solo cello music that forever defined the genre and brought the Baroque cello on par with its more popular cousin, the viola da gamba. Since Pablo Casals put them in the limelight again after 150 years of relative oblivion, Bach’s suites have become the alpha and omega for generations of cellists. To Weilerstein, the joy of this music — vibrant, contemporary, unquestionably alive — is the joy of discovery. Having heard and studied these pieces for years, she now entrusts her interpretation to the listener.
Capturing Weilerstein’s complete account of the suites in a professional studio environment, the new album represents a major artistic statement. By way of a counterpoint, #36DaysOfBach chronicled the cellist’s developing engagement with the work from the intimacy of her own home. Launched on March 17, the project saw her play a different movement each day, complete with opportunities for fans to discuss each suite with her in regularly scheduled Facebook Live chats. As Weilerstein says: “In this surreal situation, I want to find a way to continue to communicate through music, even when we are unable to gather with each other in concert halls.”
Since signing an exclusive contract with PENTATONE, Alisa Weilerstein has released Transfigured Night (2018), and featured on Inon Barnatan’s Beethoven Piano Concertos Part 1 as well as Old Souls, an album with music for flute and strings (both released in 2019). The recording of Bach’s Cello Suites charted in the top 10 on the UK’s Official Specialist Classical Chart and was selected as part of AppleMusic’s “Classical You Must Hear This Month” playlist in May.
“One such artist is the cellist Alisa Weilerstein, whose #36DaysOfBach project has her streaming a daily live performance on social media of one movement of the six cello suites — often following the music by chatting with those tuning in. And two weeks ago, Pentatone released Ms. Weilerstein’s richly emotive studio recording of the suites, made in Berlin last year.”
Read the full interview in The New York Times
“If you’re longing for the familiar, the steady, the permanent, you could do a lot worse than Bach, whose six beloved cello suites come alive anew in Alisa Weilerstein’s new recording. The 2011 MacArthur fellow has been delivering gorgeous performances and leading lively discussions about the suites on Facebook Live as part of her #36daysofbach project (and she also recently offered an elucidating walk-through of the prelude of Suite No. 1 in G major — a.k.a. “that famous cello song” — for Vox); but these accounts feel like a master class all by themselves. And even if you don’t know them all by heart, just the familiar routine of moving from the tonic to the dominant and back can restore some sense of much-needed normalcy. (It actually feels a little like leaving the house.)”
The Washington Post
“With Weilerstein, you enjoy the sensation of being escorted through a Baroque dance hall by an all-encompassing commentator with a comprehensive understanding of what she plays, be it the intensity of the Fourth Suite, the balletic grandeur of the Sixth or the tragic demeanour of the Fifth. She has all options covered, and PENTATONE has recorded her with impressive presence. Very strongly recommended.”
“The American’s sumptuous sound and modern technique have greater kinship with Casals and his successors than with ‘period-style’ performers, and her spacious readings have something of du Pré’s emotional style, with shafts of flamboyance in the third suite’s bourrées and the dark fifth’s gavottes. She brings a moving intensity to the sixth suite’s allemande and sarabande. This outstanding artist is a great catch for Pentatone.”
The Sunday Times: Album of the Week
“The exceptional cellist’s music emerges with sunlit clarity in … a performance that unfolds at its own pace and in its own space, inward-looking yet confident – one captured at exactly the right time. … There are dozens of recordings of these suites to choose from, but this stands up with the best.”
“An exceptional cellist and distinguished musician, … Weilerstein has carefully considered the path through these works, finding a magnitude of emotion. Weilerstein’s contemporary approach is respectful of the Baroque origins but brings a highly expressive performance.”