Alisa Weilerstein – Transfigured Night
Haydn & Schoenberg
A excellent performance, wonderfully captured by the engineering: this is the right synthesis of Alisa Weilerstein’s Transfigured Night, an album she dedicates to the music of Haydn and Schoenberg, featuring the two cello concerto written by the former and the string sextet Verklärte Nacht by the latter. In this way, as she states in the booklet notes, «the small orchestra intimacy of the Haydn concerti along with the dynamic range of the Schoenberg allowed the session to feel both big and small».
Haydn’s Cello Concertos
Nowadays only two of Haydn’s cello concertos are considered authentic, the Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major, written in 1761, and the Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major, dating to 1783. Weilerstein and the Trondheim Soloists perform these two works in a way which is both transparent and considerate. The first Cello Concerto of Transfigured Night is actually the second Haydn wrote and it opens the album lively and joyfully.
The Trondheim Soloists’ playing is brisk and colourful, while Weilerstein, from her graceful entry in the first movement, reveals her delicate style of playing, with its light consistency that I already praised in her recording of Shostakovich’s Cello Concertos, and that suits perfectly Haydn’s music. Her insight is of great value, as you can hear in the soulful rendition of the end of the first movement. It is not by chance then that the second movement is like an elegy, a vision of heavenly serenity, while the third movement constitutes a sparkling and animated conclusion for this amazing work.
The Cello Concerto No. 1 is as graceful and refined as the previous one, and the colours of the Trondheim Soloists are shimmering. Weilerstein is praiseworthy for her impeccable agility and again the softness of her playing is enchanting, especially in the second movement.
Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht
With Schoenberg’s string sextet Verklärte Nacht we enter into a different world. Composed in 1899 Verklärte Nacht is a programmatic work, which combines Wagnerian and Brahmsian elements with Mendelssohn’s and Schumann’s modes.
This work is atmospheric and in the cautious depiction of Weilerstein and of the Trondheim Soloists, it is described slowly and in a very detailed manner. Pathos and intensity are the main ingredients at the beginning (in the Molto rallentando, the music is almost tearful), while in the course of the sextet the sound becomes silky and smoother. In any case, the music is soaring, in particular when the instruments play together.
From every point of view, Transfigured Night is an inspiration. From the more relaxed, stylish Haydn’s Cello Concertos to the complexity of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, Alisa Weilerstein and the Trondheim Soloists offer a stylish performance of first-rate quality.