Dvorák

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: Decca
ALBUM TITLE: Alisa Weilerstein: Dvorák
WORKS: Cello Concerto; Rondo in G minor; Silent Woods; Slavonic Dance No. 8; Songs my mother taught me (arr. Grünfeld); Lasst much allein; Goin’ Home (arr. Lenehan)
PERFORMER: Alisa Weilerstein (cello); Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Jiri Behlolávek
CATALOGUE NO: 478 5705

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Dvorák’s Cello Concerto ranges from the grandest of gestures to poignant intimacy. The blend of virtuosity and maturity of insight required often defeats the finest players, and while there are numerous admirable recordings few touch the heights.

This new issue has been put together with remarkable care. Three of the makeweights, all beautifully played, were written or arranged for the cellist and dedicatee of the concerto, Hanus Wihan. In addition there is an arrangement of the song, ‘Leave me alone’, which Dvorák quotes in the slow movement; it is thought to be a favourite of his sister-in-law, Josefina, with whom he may once have been in love and whose untimely death prompted his recomposition of the finale to include a reminiscence of the melody.

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But it is the performance of the Concerto that is centre stage and here Alisa Weilerstein is extraordinary. The volatility of her first entry galvanises the performance after a slightly lacklustre orchestral introduction. After this, it takes off in many directions, everyone demanding attention. A mixture of muscular virtuosity and radiant reflection marks the middle part of the first movement. Her performance of the slow movement reveals a profound understanding of the relationship between the solo part and the multi-faceted delicacy of Dvorák’s orchestration, while that of the finale confirms that this is one of the great ensemble performances of this concerto available. The sound, notoriously difficult on the platform and in recordings of this Concerto, is not always ideal, but this is a performance to treasure.