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Bruce Surtees
The WholeNote, November 2011

EUROPA-KONZERT 2010 - ELGAR, E.: Cello Concerto / BRAHMS, J.: Symphony No. 1 (Weilerstein, Barenboim) (NTSC) 2058068
EUROPA-KONZERT 2010 - ELGAR, E.: Cello Concerto / BRAHMS, J.: Symphony No. 1 (Weilerstein, Barenboim) (Blu-ray, Full-HD) 2058064

I ordered this disc to hear a new performance of the Elgar. The Brahms enjoys a satisfying, substantial performance but does not quite displace the top few favourites. Recorded live in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford in 2010 it is the performance of the Elgar that sets new standards in every respect.

In the performance captured on this video, [Alisa Weilerstein] plays the concerto with such assurance that it sounds like she owns it. Her musicality, sensitivity and competency as a performer are complemented by a strong, electrifying stage presence. She is at one with her instrument. A paragon. Her rapport with Barenboim and the Berliners is splendid and the performance is nothing short of spectacular, certainly worth many listenings. Unquestionably, a must have. Do it now.

Peter Quantrill
Gramophone, August 2011

Oxonian antics and a gripping Elgar—Barenboim’s irst since Jacqueline du Pré

I wonder if any students who leapt off Magdalen Bridge on May 1 last year made their bedraggled way to the Sheldonian for a trenchant reflection on their midsummer madness? Barenboim might have joined them in days gone by; now his flaunted anachronism is to out-Knappertsbusch everyone in the Wagner Prelude and squeeze a sound that fills the Berlin Philharmonie into a space a quarter the size. Six double basses counts as the BPO Chamber Orchestra. This is perfect for the Elgar but works less well in the Brahms. Barenboim conveys a superb vertical grasp of the argument. Everyone knows where they stand and act. But his spans are larger than Brahms’s own: if you think of the first movement as a sine wave, Barenboim’s shapes are too broad, not to say artificial, so that the second half of the first-movement exposition must slow to a crawl—a tense crawl, but a crawl all the same—while the last few bars into the recapitulation are already thundering towards their goal with a momentum that doesn’t allow the clinching bass-line to register as such: it’s too absorbed into a flow larger than itself. It’s bold and impressive and sweeps us along with it but it’s not life-changing (as one enthusiastic reviewer claimed at the time) and it’s not really Brahms-changing either.

The Elgar, however, is gripping from the very start, fully charged with the emotion that one might expect to inflame Barenboim’s first return to the piece since accompanying Jacqueline du Pré. I have never heard the first movement projected so clearly and convincingly as one long span and it allows the whole of the concerto to unfold in one unbroken, elegiac song. The boldness of the conception would have been even more sustained had they taken the Adagio a notch faster, but how Alisa Weilerstein throws herself into those dicey upward sequences; her bow-hold is very high, like a violinist’s. She never holds back and takes some impressive risks, perhaps inspired by an accompaniment that convinces me, for the time, of the Berlin Philharmonic being the finest orchestra for Elgar, as well as for everything else.

David W Moore
American Record Guide, March 2011

…the orchestral players are highly expressive visually as well as aurally. Altogether this is a rather special event that I am very happy to have seen as well as heard. Weilerstein’s Elgar is very satisfying…

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Zachary Lewis
Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 2010

Taped live in May at the ornate Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, England, this DVD features cello superstar and Cleveland Heights native Alisa Weilerstein in the kind of heartfelt reading of the Elgar Concerto only she could give, along with compelling performances of Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 and Wagner’s Prelude to Act III of “Die Meistersinger” by the Berlin Philharmonic under Daniel Barenboim. Finding the disc in stores may be tough, but for Weilerstein fans especially, the effort will be more than worthwhile., November 2010

The orchestra does an excellent job for Barenboim…and Alisa Weilerstein’s solo performance in Elgar’s Cello Concerto, as fine as it is, must still revive painful memories for Barenboim of the astonishing way his first wife, Jacqueline du Pré (1945–1987), made the piece her own. It is true that du Pré’s version of this work remains unexcelled (her recording, conducted by Sir John Barbirolli, is a classic), but it is also true that several cellists today, including Weilerstein, have their own valid and sensitive interpretations of the concerto, and this performance, recorded earlier this year, is a very fine one. So is Barenboim’s reading of Brahms’ First Symphony, which he makes magisterial and almost, but not quite, a touch pompous. Hearing the splendid Berlin Philharmonic brass in the finale is a special joy. …would make a fine seasonal present for a music-lover.

Michael Quinn
The Classical Review, September 2010

Filmed at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, England in May, the concert features performances of Wagner’s Act III Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, the First Symphony by Brahms, and the American-born Weilerstein in Elgar’s Cello Concerto.

The Berlin Philharmonic’s annual European Concert is held in a different European city each May Day to commemorate the orchestra’s foundation in 1882. The Oxford concert was described by one critic as “life changing.” Another remarked that Weilerstein “gave the most technically complete and emotionally devastating performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto that I have ever heard live, with an orchestral accompaniment she can only have only thought possible in her wildest dreams, with the subtlety, sensuality, and insight of Barenboim’s conducting.”

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