Alisa Weilerstein

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With this 2014 release, American cellist Alisa Weilerstein moves out from obligatory concerto repertory into something more original. In fact, the program here is not just original, but qualifies as daring. It lacks one of the Bach solo cello pieces that are usual in such recitals, consisting entirely of music from the 20th and 21st centuries. Moreover, all the music has an ethnic flavor, and one might think that 75 minutes of solo cello music in this vein would be a tough slog. Nothing of the sort. Weilerstein chooses the program intelligently, with the massive Sonata for solo cello, Op. 8, of Kodály shifting gears into Osvaldo Golijov's Omaramor, a sort of anti-tango or refusal to accept the inevitability of the tango for an Argentine composer. That work plays nicely off the Catalan neo-classicism of Gaspar Cassadó's Suite per violincello and the Seven Tunes Heard in China of Bright Sheng, an underrated Chinese composer resident in Michigan, the latter of which take a skeptical attitude toward markers of Chinese melody in a manner something like Golijov toward the tango. Weilerstein keeps this large and potentially unwieldy enterprise under perfect control, and her reading of the Kodály, with intense forward momentum in the cello's high registers, is extraordinary. This still-developing cellist, aided by fine engineering work at Berlin's Teldex Studio, is decidedly one to watch.

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