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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Alisa Weilerstein

This coming week the Boston Symphony Orchestra will host the young American cellist Alisa Weilerstein. She is a former Boston resident, having lived in the North End for two years. Weilerstein is a rapidly rising star in the classical musical world, and has already forged a formative career since her debut with the Cleveland Orchestra at the age of 13.

Weilerstein will perform the Brahms Double Concerto with Dutch violinist Janine Jansen and the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hans Graf on March 19, 20, 21, and 24.

At the end of a feature article by Joan Anderman in today's Sunday Boston Globe (Arts and Entertainment section 3/15/09), Anderman wrote:

Performing Penderecki's savage Second Cello Concerto last year with the New York Philharmonic, Weilerstein says, her bow began to take on characteristics of a knife, and she began to feel like a murderer. It was a state so consuming, and so hard to snap out of, she had to force herself to take her bows.

"We have the darkness inside of us, and it's easy to be afraid to go there, But the music demands it," Weilerstein says. "So you find it."

This kind of consuming passion is what inspires composers and listeners alike. It's a statement of commitment to the music that mirrors the psychological and emotional process that composers go through to create the music in the first place. The "darkness inside" is an apt description for the psychological venting we hear in much modern music, and quite representative of the inner turmoil that some composers go through as they reveal their innermost ideas in the form of little dots scribbled on the page.

It's good to hear a performer who is willing to assume the dangerous but vital role of faithfully executing the composer's intentions, even if it is a musically violent act. For the composer, the contemporary pallet of emotions should include the entire spectrum of expression, and at times the composer may call upon the performer to portray intense "rage." The dark side of emotions should not be banned from the concert hall, even if it makes some of us uncomfortable. Weilerstein couldn't be more succinct and wise with her comment... "The music demands it."

One would hope that Weilerstein will keep the fire of unremitting passion alive in her rocketing musical career. She appears to have a talent and willingness to be a vessel for contemporary composers, and to perform their new works with the same intensity and passion that they were created with. Even if these works explore musical realms that create a degree of Existential dissonance, she's willing committed to include it on the menu.