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Weilerstein, Dvořák, Corcoran (Wait for Piazzolla)

available at Amazon
A.Dvořák, Trios,
Weilerstein Trio

Musical families may be rarer these days than they once were; after all there were times when music had to be made in order to be heard. And if you were a second child, you got a viola for your third birthday; as a forth, the tuba. Nowadays: iPod. Still, there are such families – some making music at home, others exploiting their talents with gimmicky (not to say: brazenly trashy) products such as “The Five Browns,” yet others somewhere in between, but on a professional level. One such family is the small Weilerstein clan which involves Alisa Weilerstein (reviewed with the NSO at the beginning of this season) bringing her parents – Donald, violin, and Vivian, piano – along for assorted trios and duos.

Friday they were at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in an all-Dvořák program – no doubt to restore the Czech composer’s good reputation that had suffered so much the night before. Sans daughter, Mrs. Hornik-Weilerstein and Mr. Weilerstein gave a taste of the slight side of Dvořák with three of the Romantic Pieces, op. 75. The Allegro moderato was well played, Allegro appassionato and Largetto (less interesting than the others) exposed some of the difficulties Father Weilerstein (a renowned violin teacher) had, his sound being harsh and ‘scrubbed’ too often. Here as in the following Trio in G minor, op. 26 (the earlier, lesser, G minor trio), Mother Weilerstein outdid herself as an engaging accompanist, receiving for her efforts as much as music and instrument (the Corcoran’s Achilles’ heel) would yield.

With his daughter setting the bar for expressive and technical sufficiency several notches higher, Mr. Weilerstein improved notably in the trio (intonation still being off, here and there) while the cello impressed with a generous, round sound. Felt, strong, and reliable, she may have looked to her father for cues, but it was the parents who might well have looked to her for expression and engagement. That the cherubic Ms. Weilerstein looks at every longer held note as though she was playing Metamorphosen or Tod & Verklärung added a distinct visual (and perhaps audible) element to the refreshingly bold, brazen performance of the trio.

Quiet Woods for cello and piano proved a wonderful satin tone growing into resin-rich wood at Alisa’s will; the lovely short work being a charming vehicle for her to shine. Whether because of the absence of the violin or despite, it proved the most enjoyable piece on the program up to that point and including the following Dumky trio, op. 90.

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A.Dvořák, Cello Concerto, "Dumky" Trio,
J.-G. Queyras (I. Faust, A. Melnikov) / Prague PO / J.Bělohlávek
Harmonia Mundi

The Lento maestoso, this work’s beginning, was lugubrious – but once jolted into the famous theme (Allegro quasi doppio movimento) the three were more in their element which, generally, they were more often in fast, lissome moments rather than those that called for lyricism, which the Weilerstein trio just never seemed able to sustain properly. Too often then did the melodies seem pulled apart, long lines started and decayed all in the same manner; notes did not float seamlessly into others. Mr. Weilerstein’s relapse to an earlier state of raspy scrappiness did not help to show this masterpiece from its best side; tellingly even the pizzicatos sounded like they came from a toy violin; soft passages were not pleasing. But with the music this beautiful, it’s difficult to quibble. (Those who wish to hear an absolutely sublime version of the Dumky slow movement ought to turn to a relatively new disc of Jean-Guihen Queyras, Alexander Melnikov, and Isabelle Faust. It comes coupled with the Dvořák Cello Concerto [Prague/Belohlavek], which, too, contains the best slow movement there has been since the Du Pre/Celibidache collaboration.)

This might have made for a mixed impression going into the night – had it not been for the three to give an encore by Astor Piazzolla (“Fall” from his Four Seasons) and do so in grand style. All three were in their element: they seemed to have at last as much fun playing as the audience listening.


Garth Trinkl said...

Thanks for your interesting review, Jens.

I'll be curious to hear Jean-Guihen Queyras doing the Dvorak, because I've respected him for his earlier specialization of contemporary music. I'll listen to him do the Dvorak, and you, Charles, Mark, and others can listen to him do the Ligeti Cello Concerto, OK?

Thanks again.

jfl said...

One step ahead of the game.