Alisa Weilerstein: Solo
It feels a little dangerous to say this, but the opening of Alisa Weilerstein’s ‘Solo’ hits the listener between the eyes in a way that was particularly characteristic of Jacqueline du Pré’s earlier performances. The opening of Kodály’s highly significant Sonata, Op 8, has much of du Pré’s sinuous but elegiac passion that manages, despite pushing the instrument (and Weilerstein’s 18th-century English cello is nothing like as robust as du Pré’s 1673 Stradivari) to its limits, to remain emotionally balanced at the same time. Being able to trust a performer in that way makes for an exciting listening experience, especially in a piece such as the Kodály that forms the backbone of the disc. In it, she showcases the sound the cello can make and the emotion behind the work, but not at the expense of the musical argument. This is particularly noticeable in the first movement of the Kodály, where there is a build-up through the central phrase, with its resolution only coming after an almost free-standing, florid vignette that Weilerstein uses to intensify the power of the phrase it interrupts, rather than deflate it, as many other performances do.
As a whole, too, this is a very well chosen programme. Although this will certainly find tenacity in the catalogue as a significant recording of the Kodály Sonata, it is fundamentally a collection of pieces inspired by folk music but which illustrate how the greatest composers of these periods managed to translate their folkloric origins and influences into high art works.