One of the most grown-up review sites around

51,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


colourful imaginative harmony
Renate Eggebrecht violin

Leticia Gómez-Tagle
Chopin, Liszt, Scarlatti

Bax Piano Music

Guillaume LEKEU


Superior performance

Shostakovich 6&7 Nelsons

Verdi Requiem Thielemann

Marianna Henriksson
An outstanding recital

Arnold Bax
Be converted

this terrific disc

John Buckley
one of my major discoveries

François-Xavier Roth
A game-changing Mahler 3


Bryden Thomson


Vaughan Williams Concertos

RVW Orchestral


Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 107 (1959) [28.00]
Cello Concerto No. 2, Op. 126 (1966) [32.52]
Alisa Weilerstein (cello)
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks/Pablo Heras-Casado
rec. September (Studio No. 1)/October 2015 (Live No. 2) Herkulessaal, Munich, Germany
DECCA 483 0835 [60.53]

On her fifth album for Decca American cellist Alisa, Weilerstein collaborates with Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks under the baton of Pablo Heras-Casado. After the remarkable success of Weilerstein’s recordings of the Elgar and Dvořák cello concertos, this new Shostakovich release is eagerly anticipated. Weilerstein’s interpretations are bolstered by her meeting with the Soviet composer’s great friend Mstislav Rostropovich, for a masterclass, soaking up the eminent virtuoso’s special insights. Both works were recorded in the renowned acoustic of the Herkulessaal, Munich. Weilerstein produced the first concerto in studio conditions and the second a few days later in concert performance.

Shostakovich wrote his two cello concertos for Rostropovich in the 1950s and 60s in the midst of the severe artistic constraints, demanded by the authorities in Soviet Russia, which have helped shaped the enigmatic character of the scores. Both concertos contain outstanding episodes of technical virtuosity and profound emotional expression for the soloist together with symphonic writing both considerable and challenging for the orchestra.

The First Cello Concerto written in 1959 bears a dedication to Rostropovich who introduced the work in 1959 with the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra under Yevgeny Mravinsky at Leningrad. The opening movement Allegretto is determined, becoming increasingly troubled and agitated with Weilerstein providing a distinct searching quality. Marked Moderato in the second movement, the soloist communicates a mournful, deep introspection. After an intense, rather earnest, section, Weilerstein towards the end develops a mood of almost unbearable sorrow, creating a cold, inhospitable landscape. Rising to the challenges of the writing, Weilerstein relishes the anxiety laden Cadenza and one wonders if the composer was depicting a state of mental instability. Weilerstein generates an abundance of edgy, nervous energy in the Finale: Allegretto with writing punctuated with anguished cries. Under Heras-Casado, the violent conclusion to the movement makes a striking impact.

Written in 1966, the last decade of his life, the Second Cello Concerto was again dedicated to Rostropovich who premičred the score conducted by Yevgeny Svetlanov with the USSR Symphony Orchestra at Shostakovich’s 60th birthday concert in Moscow. Compared to the more popular First Cello Concerto, this relatively underrated score has now gone a considerable way to establishing its rightful place in the repertoire. Opening with a Largo, the predominantly mournful writing profoundly depicts a bleak, barren and freezing wasteland a feature often heard in the composer’s music. The darkly brooding intensity of Weilerstein’s cello provides a spine tingling effect. In the relatively short Scherzo, the soloist’s dynamic playing cuts through the terse and highly rhythmic orchestral writing which generates the feeling of a sardonic dance by a force of evil. Heralded by a jubilant horn fanfare and drum roll, the substantial fourteen minute Finale: Allegretto soon changes its character. Weilerstein brings an aching sadness and introspection, a mood that underpins the remainder of the movement.

In the challenging emotional cross-currents of both scores, Weilerstein communicates remarkable assurance with absorbing playing of steadfast control and a steely beauty. The American’s William Forster cello (1790) has a rich burnished tone and she clearly relishes every note of these twentieth-century masterworks. The Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks knows these works extremely well and under Pablo Heras-Casado demonstrates a splendid rapport with the soloist. Without question, the playing of the Munich orchestra is entirely committed with its melodic and dramatic elements so well balanced by Heras-Casado.

The engineering team in the Herkulessaal has provided a sound quality that is remarkably consistent across each work, vividly clear, with good presence and the slightly forward placed cello feels ideal.

In the Shostakovich cello concertos the partnership of Weilerstein and Pablo Heras-Casado is compellingly fruitful. These are performances of real distinction that can join the elevated status of the accounts from soloist Heinrich Schiff also with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks conducted by the composer’s son Maxim Shostakovich and recorded for Philips at the same Herkulessaal, Munich in 1984.

Michael Cookson

Previous review: Dave Billinge (Recording of the Month)



We are currently offering in excess of 51,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger