Alisa Weilerstein / Pablo Heras-Casado / Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

Shostakovich: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

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The American cellist Alisa Weilerstein was a Russian history major at Columbia University. Whether that gives her special insight into the music of Shostakovich is debatable, but whatever the case, this is an unusually strong reading of Shostakovich's pair of cello concertos, both emotionally intense works dating from the later part of his career. Weilerstein's strength is that she can do both the suppressed and the tortured sides of Shostakovich during this period. These can and do appear in the same work. The Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 107, has a certain slyly menacing quality in its outer movements that Weilerstein catches to the hilt, while she brings lyrical warmth to the broad "Moderato" slow movement. The Cello Concerto No. 2, Op. 126, is a haunted, and in Weilerstein's hands, a haunting work. Sample the extraordinary opening movement, a 14-minute mixture of anguish, ghostly reminiscences, and epic despair. The finale has a false-start opening on a par with those in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 and Piano Sonata No. 29 finales, followed by a variation set that keeps breaking off for various crises. This may never be one of Shostakovich's real crowd favorites, but it receives what may be its most persuasive advocacy here. Agile, sensitive support from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under young star Pablo Heras-Casado, and superb Decca engineering at Munich's Herkulessaal are other attractions. A major Shostakovich concerto release.

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