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Nuns, sluts and Mormons head US classical sales, but there’s a cello rising fast behind

Here are the final Soundscan stas before the holidays.

Number 1 in the classical charts is Decca’s green Benedictines.

Number 2 is 50 shades of smut.

Number 3 is the Tabernacle Choir, mourning Mitt Romney’s defeat.

Much as it has been all month. But the fastest riser is interesting. At number 5 is Alisa Weilerstein with a cracking new recording of the Elgar concerto, coupled with Elliott Carter. Who’d have thought there would be such an appetite for Carter?

alisa weiler

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  1. It’s worth pointing out the irony that the recording is made by Daniel Barenboim, who was married to the late Jacqueline Du Pre, who was the last word on Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Few cellists wanted to attempt it after her sensitive, intense recording of the piece with Barbirolli and the LSO. Du Pre went on to play the piece with her new husband Barenboim, and two of those performances show up on recordings made after the Barbirolli recording that made her famous. I wonder how it felt for him to conduct that piece again with another cellist, so many years later.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      There is a video of that Weilerstein/Barenboim performance regularly on TV in Europe. He looks thrilled and conducts the concerto from memory.

      • Interesting. I should add context, for those who don’t know about Du Pre. She had to stop performing due to multiple sclerosis at age 28, in 1973. She died at age 42, while still married to Barenboim. That was the piece she was known for. So that is why I wondered aloud about how he feels conducting the piece now, assuming it has a special emotional significance for him.

    • Sorry but it’s simply not true that ‘few cellists wanted to attempt it after Du Pre’. It has been recorded by legions of cellists since, especially of the female sex. I think the only cellist who said he’d never play it again after hearing Du Pre was Rostropovich. That was sadly, I fear, a misjudgment as the great man had plenty to say about it.

  2. I agree with both Dave and Reiner. The words “emotional” and “passionate” are often used to describe Du Pre’s performance of Elgar, but I have always found Du Pre’s performance a bit too rough. Many people prefer other recordings, such as the one made by Yo-Yo Ma and the LSO.

  3. Re the “few cellists wanted to attempt” issue: According to the report on NPR a while ago, the “first” here is that this is the first recording of this work cnoducted by Barenboim with a female cellist since the death of his wife.

  4. Neil van der Linden says:

    I assume that Peter mostly meant that it must have been a haunting experience for both Barenboim and Weilerstein. A bit Rebecca or Vertigo, or Die Tote Stadt. Anyhow the reason why Norman Lebrecht posted this in the first place is that suddenly such a record appears amidst the muzak. For a long time, since Billboard changed the category system, it seemed the days were over when Hillary Hahn performing the Schönberg violin concerto could remain for weeks at number one, instead of Il Divo or Katherine Jenkins and the likes.

  5. Don’t forget that this has been one of the most publicized recordings in recent history. That does a lot to help sales and rank. Change that: it does EVERYTHING to help sales and rank. The various “back stories” (Du Pre & Barenboim by way of the Hillary and Jackie Movie, Carter’s longevity and recent death, and Weilerstein’s 2011 MacArthur Foundation “Genius” award) make people think that this must be a truly special recording. The high-octane publicists are doing a great job with all the stuff they have to work with.

    The Du Pre/Barenboim Elgar has been re-released so many times that many people could be fooled into thinking that it and the Rostropovich recording are the only recordings that preceded Weilerstein’s recording. Try an Amazon search, and you’ll see (even Yo-Yo Ma’s recording doesn’t come up unless you search for it specifically). A glance at the American Record Guide index reveals that there are at least 15 respectable alternatives to Du Pre, Rostropovich, and Weilerstein, and a glance at the WorldCat shows that there are at least 10 others that are not in the ARG index.

    [I have never been able to stand Du Pre's Elgar recording. I am, however, continually impressed with Barenboim, both as a pianist and as a conductor, and I love the Dvorak Trio recording that Alicia Weilerstein made with her parents back in 2006.]

  6. Good comments all, and all are well taken. My intended point was less about Du Pre’s performance in relation to other performances of the piece, and more about its significance for her own career and for Barenboim. I would have done well to edit out the extra verbiage.

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