Alisa Weilerstein’s Solo Bach

Review by: Jed Distler

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Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 8

Since Alisa Weilerstein is a most gifted and accomplished cellist, the technical sheen and control throughout her recordings of Bach’s unaccompanied suites do not surprise. She brings effortless lilt and lightness to the C major and E-flat major Gigues, while her double-stops boast admirable textural differentiation, notably in the D minor Menuets and D major Gavottes. In fact, the D major’s high tessitura reveals no struggles of intonation whatsoever. Still, an air of self-awareness hovers over her interpretations, drawing more attention to Weilerstein’s prowess than to Bach’s architecture.

The famous C major Bourrées exemplify what I mean in regard to the cellist’s almost-exaggerated detaché articulation and coy diminuendos. The G major Prelude abounds with cutesy holdbacks and gratuitous dynamic shifts. The C minor Prelude comes off as an exercise in “how slowly and quietly can I play”, while the same suite’s Sarabande is drawn out to the point where the individual pitches seem to occupy their own spaces.

Compare the latter alongside Heinrich Schiff, and all of a sudden you hear lines, melodies, harmonic awareness, and good old fashioned shape. Or compare Weilerstein’s soft-grained, somewhat rhythmically unsettled E-flat Courante next to the late Boris Pergamenschikow’s quicker, more grounded artistry. As is often the case, Weilerstein’s personality comes through most persuasively when she tries to do the least! In any event, Weilerstein’s instrumental command survives the scrutiny of PentaTone’s closely detailed sonics with flying colors.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Schiff (Warner Classics); Pergamenschikow (Hänssler); Queyras (Harmonia Mundi)

  • Alisa Weilerstein (cello)

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