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Alisa Weilerstein Releases Complete Bach Cello Suites on Pentatone Label, April 3

Trailblazing cellist Alisa Weilerstein – “supercharged with virtues that speak to the better part of human nature” (The Independent) – makes a major artistic statement when she releases a recording of Bach’s six unaccompanied cello suites on the Pentatone label on April 3. Preceding the release on March 27, the Courante from Suite No. 2 in D minor will be released to major retailers as an advance track. The LA Times has called Weilerstein’s Bach “a true model of the meaning of mastery when it comes to what a string instrument is capable of. … The sound might easily have come from her voice, her lungs and her being. … Her command of the cello, of its sound and of Bach, was consummate.”

Though individual Bach cello suites have long been a feature of Weilerstein’s programming, she deliberately waited until a few seasons ago to begin the daunting task of performing them as a complete set, and then spent another few years honing them in live performance before venturing into the studio. She has since made the monumental undertaking a regular part of her schedule, becoming something of a world ambassador for these masterworks. U.S. performances have included those at Boston’s Celebrity Series and New York’s 92nd Street Y, among numerous others, and last summer alone saw four performances: in Guangzhou, China; at England’s storied Aldeburgh Festival; in Paris’s Saint-Denis Festival; and at the acoustically and architecturally spectacular Elbphilharmonie during Hamburg’s Schleswig-Holstein Festival. She performs the set again this spring in Oviedo and Bilbao, Spain and at the Prague Spring International Music Festival. A recent Vox video with the cellist discussing the intricacies of the Prelude to Suite No. 1 in G can be seen here.

As Weilerstein says of the new album:

“The Bach cello suites present the player with infinite possibilities. Each note, each phrase, carries abundant varieties of expression and musical nuance. The suites are too rich with ideas, too full of subtleties, and too dense with the burden of history for any particular interpretation to be exhaustive, any particular choice definitive. All great pieces of music carry with them this sense of contradiction—they must be played, yet they can’t be played. Every expressive gesture both realizes and limits the intentions of the composer.

“With their delicacy and nakedness, their strength and restraint, the cello suites present a unique and humbling challenge. After many years telling family, friends, and myself that I would attempt a recording only when I was much older, I decided that what had seemed like prudence was, in fact, a misunderstanding of the suites’ nature. The intrinsic impossibility of this music is the very source of its freedom.

“I have been living with these suites since further back than memory can reach, and I have grown with them throughout my life with the cello. Great music is a reflection of life as it is lived, and this recording is a reflection of myself, in 2019, at 37 years old, steeped in and still discovering Bach’s unparalleled accomplishment.”

The album release comes in the midst of a busy winter and spring for Weilerstein, with orchestral and chamber engagements from Finland to California. She performs the Elgar Concerto with both the London Symphony on tour in France and the Pittsburgh Symphony; Shostakovich’s Second Cello Concerto with both the Iceland Symphony and Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie Orchestra; the Barber Concerto with the Detroit Symphony; and Matthias Pintscher’s Un despertar, written for her, with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Helsinki. In the spring, honoring Beethoven’s 250th anniversary year, she performs the complete Beethoven cello sonatas with her frequent recital partner, pianist Inon Barnatan, on a U.S. tour with stops in Michigan, Missouri, Colorado and California.

High-resolution photos may be downloaded here.

Bach – Weilerstein (Pentatone)

Release date: April 3, 2020

J.S. Bach: Suites for solo violoncello

Alisa Weilerstein, cello

Suite No. 1 in G, BWV 1007

Suite No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1008

Suite No. 3 in C, BWV 1009

Suite No.4 in E-flat, BWV 1010

Suite No. 5 in C minor, BWV 1011

Suite No. 6 in D, BWV 1012

Alisa Weilerstein: winter and spring 2020

March 18
Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki Music Centre, Rehearsal Hall
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Rafael Payare
MATTHIAS PINTSCHER: Cello Concerto No. 2 “Un despertar”

March 23-24
French tour with London Symphony
London Symphony Orchestra / François-Xavier Roth
ELGAR: Cello Concerto
March 23: Paris, France (Philharmonie de Paris)
March 24: Lyon, France (Auditorium Maurice-Ravel)

March 28-April 6
Tour of Beethoven’s Complete Cello Sonatas with Inon Barnatan
BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonata No. 1 in F, Op. 5 No. 1
BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 5 No. 2
BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonata No. 3 in A, Op. 69
BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonata No. 4 in C, Op. 102, No. 1
BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonata No. 5 in D, Op. 102, No. 2
March 28: Beverly Hills, MI (Seligman Performing Arts Center
March 29: St. Louis, MO (Washington University in St. Louis)
April 1: Denver, CO (Gates Hall – Newman Center)
April 4: Walnut Creek, CA (Lesher Center for the Arts)
April 5: San Francisco, CA (Herbst Theatre)
April 6: Palo Alto, CA (Oshman Family JCC)

May 7
Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland Symphony Orchestra / Rafael Payare
SHOSTAKOVICH: Cello Concerto No. 2 in G, Op. 126

May 15 & 17
Pittsburgh, PA
Heinz Hall
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra / Pablo Heras-Casado
ELGAR: Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85

May 19
Oviedo, Spain
J.S. BACH: The Complete Cello Suites

May 20 & 21
Bilbao, Spain
J.S. BACH: The Complete Cello Suites

May 23
Prague, Czech Republic
The Prague Spring International Music Festival
J.S. BACH: The Complete Cello Suites

June 18 & 21
Hamburg, Germany
Elbphilharmonie Orchestra / Krzysztof Urbański
SHOSTAKOVICH: Cello Concerto No. 2, Op. 126

June 20
Hamburg, Germany
Elbphilharmonie Orchestra / Krzysztof Urbański
TCHAIKOVSKY: Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33

© 21C Media Group, February 2020

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