Alisa Weilerstein: Solo – Kodály: Sonata, Op 8; Golijov: Omaramor; Cassadó: Suite per violoncello; Sheng: Seven Tunes Heard in China

Reviewed on Thu 01 Jan, 2015

Kodály’s solo Sonata, Op 8, was long associated almost exclusively with the great János Starker – he recorded it a number of times – but of more recent versions Alisa Weilerstein’s indulges the work’s kaleidoscopic soundworld with what seems like boundless enthusiasm. The first movement becomes a passionate oration, the second a gipsy improvisation, and the dancing finale a concerto without orchestra calling on just about every trick of bow and fingers. With the cello’s two lower strings tuned down a semitone, tonal richness is guaranteed. It’s a remarkable piece, unmissable if you don’t already know it. Gaspar Cassadó’s cello Suite is cut very much from the same cloth, albeit with Spanish rather than Hungarian colours, while in his Omaramor Osvaldo Golijov toys with memories of the great Argentine singer Carlos Gardel. Weilerstein has the technical wherewithal to enter into the spirit of both, just as she understands the meaningful use of silences in Bright Sheng’s absorbing Seven Tunes Heard in China. If you’re seeking a solo cello recording that combines warmth with presence, look no further.
–Rob Cowan