This is pretty special. Alisa Weilerstein has been grabbing headlines, not least for her luminous ElgarConcerto recording with Daniel Barenboim. Here she has the ideal pairing for this most Czech of concertos, with the Czech Philharmonic and the generous-spirited music-making of Jiří Bělohlávek. From the orchestra we get an innate understanding of that sense of longing that lies barely beneath the surface of so much of this composer’s music. We also get wonderfully characterful wind playing (the flute duetting with the soloist in the second movement is delectable) and a big symphonic sound when needed. From the soloist we get a directness of emotion, a superbly liquid tone, deliquescent beauty in the upper reaches of the register and a shimmering virtuosity.
Any new reading of this much recorded work is up against a daunting history, but Weilerstein makes you forget all about that. Hers is a quite different approach from Steven Isserlis’s intensely compelling recent performance, but no less convincing. The recorded sound is warm and it places Weilerstein forward but not at the expense of the orchestra. The concerto is rounded out by a bouquet of shorter pieces with pianist Anna Polonsky which are every bit as beguiling.