Alisa Weilerstein and Inon Barnatan, UCSB Arts & Lectures House Calls Concert

Romantic Cello Overtures

Credit: PAUL STUART

All due and proper respects go out to Alisa Weilerstein, the virtuoso — and highly musical virtuoso — cellist who recently offered a delectable recital performance with sympatico pianist Inon Barnatan in the House Concerts series presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures. But it should also be mentioned that her young daughter, in some extra-musical way, may have at least briefly stolen the show and won our hearts, as she strode into the Zoom room where Weilerstein engaged in a post-concert Q&A, pressing for her mother’s attention.

The youngster’s unsanctioned cameo was a not-uncommon overlap of professional and personal life circa pandemic-era rules of conduct, as was the case with another musical performance unfolding in an empty venue, in this case, the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in La Jolla.


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A MacArthur Grant “genius,” Weilerstein boasts a range of specialties that include a strong ear and advocacy for contemporary music and a recent, acclaimed COVID-era recording of Bach’s Cello Suites. But on this occasion, in sync with the concert’s Valentine’s Day celebration status, the pair leaned into the winds of romantic impulses, early 20th century division.

Organically inhabiting the heart-on-sleeve scores of Manuel Da Falla’s Spanish folk-tinged Suite populaire espagnole (1914) and Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata (1901), the duo — with 13 years of mutual interplay to its credit—seemed to breathe, ruminate, and exhort together. 

Let’s hope that the non-sound of no-hands-clapping that’s so characteristic of socially distanced virtual recitals will be a thing of the past sooner than later; nevertheless, musical eloquence of the sort heard here provides reassuring cultural consolation in the meantime.


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