DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto
How disarmingly unforced and personable the Czech Philharmonic sound in the Concerto’s introduction, Jiří Bĕlohlávek providing a quietly authoritative, glowingly affectionate launching pad for Alisa Weilerstein’s superbly articulate entry. I recall her contribution on the Weilerstein Trio’s delectable 2006 anthology for Koch containing Dvořák's Second and Fourth (Dumky) piano trios, and the present display confirms that she has a real feel for this repertoire. Not only does Weilerstein possess a flawless technical address, lustrous tone-production and intrepid range of dynamic, her playing evinces a captivating candour and risk-taking flair that not only succeed in activating the goosebumps (always a good sign) but also make you hear the music with fresh ears. For all the red-blooded temperament and freewheeling spontaneity on show, though, it’s in the concerto’s softer, frequently chamber-like passages that Weilerstein and those inimitably songful Czech winds really come into their own, the music’s intimacy and sense of loss conveyed with the most raptly instinctive poetry imaginable. Just occasionally the prominent solo balance masks detail within the generous acoustic of Prague’s Rudolfinum. No matter: among the leading digital contenders, this conspicuously commanding and characterful new partnership must rank alongside Steven Isserlis’s recent version.
I also greatly enjoyed the remaining items, which find Weilerstein striking up a tangibly communicative rapport with Anna Polonsky (whose quick-witted pianism is a constant pleasure). Both Silent Woods and the Rondo are essayed with genuine aplomb, whereas the slightly clunky arrangement of the vivacious G minor Slavonic Dance doesn’t entirely come off. However, everything else here most certainly does, adding up to a disc worthy of the highest plaudits.