Who got this cellist to play 140 concerts a year?

The American cellist Alisa Weilerstein, now based in Berlin, gives a typically forthright account of her life and thoughts in the latest episode of Living the Classical Life (first broadcast on Slipped Disc). She is playing Carnegie Hall tonight (Tuesday) and she tells Zsolt Bognar that she remembers every performance.

‘I could talk about each one individually,’ she maintains.

But at a certain point she realised she was getting played out. ‘The 140 concerts I did in one year was way too much. I’m very happy that I did it, and it was an exhilarating experience, but for me, personally, that’s not sustainable.’

Alisa, 35, was wise to cut back before burnout. Many don’t.


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  • The fact that she now has a young child is presumably also something else to do with it.

    (I read about the fact she was expecting, but have not seen anything since, so apologies in advance if she lost the baby).

  • Thank you for bringing this to our attention. If there is ever good tv – a big if- then Living the Classical Life is a prime example. Bognar always scratches below the surface and elicits thought provoking answers. He pulls it off again with Alisa Weilerstein – a truly wonderful artist who richly deserves her success.

    • That is an awfully “profound” statement. Let me just add that Schiff was no du Pré and du Pré was no Feuermann and Yo-Yo is no Slava. So what? Who needs copies? She (AW) is her original self and that is not bad at all.

  • She sounded like fine conservatory student when she soloed with us. Notes but no depth. Too many concerts too soon for this young cellist.

  • Heard her playing a few times, including an unprecedented boring rendering of Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante.

    Just another blender. She surely doesn’t shine through her musicality.

  • There have been international soloists performing around 250 concerts per year, or more. What’s she whining about? If she can’t handle a soloist’s life, then do something else! There are many other excellent cellists who will readily step in and take her place.

  • Saw her in fort worth last night with same program form new York. Probably the best cello recital in this area in ten years or more.

    • The questions I had after hearing Ms. Weilerstein play was one of depth. Depth of sound and the soul of her interpretation. When one has lived, a deeper meaning pours forth from the cello, from each note to the many phrases that paint a picture. Entire movements become works of art. Her Elgar and Shostakovich in Russia with the NSO last season were a far cry from the master cellists from the past. In my opinion, she is simply not there. With that I cast an eye towards those who think she is but who are mistaken. The bar should be even higher than it is when she is on stage. 140 concerts is a frightening number for both her and for her audiences. Not only does she risk injury but burnout becomes a factor. Perhaps she will get there in time. I for one, don’t want to hear her again until 2027. In the meantime, all the best to this child of the cello – pushed again and again on stage at her tender age.

      • You make a strong argument. I wonder if it wouldn’t be better if all musicians waited to solo until the ultimate life experience: death. Sure, there might be some technical challenges for such a soloist, but any number of documentary (Reanimator, From Beyond, etc.) inform us that those challenges can be overcome, as we all witnessed with Casals.

        • I’m not following you Casey. I actually experienced a violist in the NSO, whom I talk to once in a blue moon, come up to me in tears, lots of tears – I thought she had lost a member of her family – ask me how the we (NSO, Eschenbach) could hire a soloist who had just interpreted (in rehearsal) the Shostakovich No. 1 cello concerto. I found myself defending Ms. Weilerstein on her originality but upon further thought, I take it back. Her interpretation was not deep enough. Not probing enough. The spirit could have been greater. The technique is there, sure. Madison avenue at work, I’m afraid.

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