Music Preview: ALISA WEILERSTEIN: COMPLETE BACH CELLO SUITES (The Wallis in Beverly Hills)

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by Tony Frankel on October 15, 2018

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles,Tours


I had been following Alisa Weilerstein for over a decade, but until a few years ago it was only on recordings and YouTube. Having seen her perform live three times since I can assert that the phenomenal American cellist has attracted attention worldwide because her playing combines a natural virtuosic command and technical precision with impassioned musicianship and soul. You are definitely promised a tour de force performance from this MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant recipient when she comes to The Wallis in Beverly Hills for one night only, Friday Nov. 9 at 7:30. There, she’ll perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s six cello suites, which are some of the most popular classical music pieces. This Wallis debut recital will sell out, so you are hereby given plenty of advance notice to get tickets.

A brilliant combination of aggressiveness, theatricality, and soulfulness combined with adroit maneuvering and technique (wait until you hear her dig into the strings even as she breaks your heart) has made her my favorite cellist. Every time I’ve seen her, it is more than mere exceptional achievement. Indeed, her ferocious force-of-nature and unity with her cello backs up my assertion, without hesitation, that she is our greatest living cellist. Ms. Weilerstein signed an exclusive recording contract with Decca in October 2010 and is the first cellist to sign with the record label in over thirty years.

These Bach pieces for solo cello might never have seen the light of day were it not for Pablo Casals. The young Spanish cellist found a copy in the music store he worked in over a century ago. After two decades of study, Casals finally gave his first public performances of the suites, presenting them to the world as fully fledged works of invention and virtuosity, ultimately recording them from 1936-39. For all we know, they may have been the world premieres. Bach had written them for possibly a five-stringed instrument, and Casals transcribed them for the modern cello. The suites are now a staple of cello repertoire, and the prelude of the first suite is one of the most identifiable of melodies, frequently used in films and commercials.

photos by Harald Hoffmann and Robin Thomson (© Decca)

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein
BACH Cello Suites

Bram Goldsmith Theater at The Wallis
9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd in Beverly Hills
Friday, November 9, at 7:30
for tickets, call 310.746.4000 or visit The Wallis

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