The Strad Issue: January 2013
Description: An enterprising coupling somewhat let down by a routine early composition
Musicians: Steven Isserlis (cello) Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Daniel Harding
Composer: Dvorák

Continuing his tradition of releasing enterprising and imaginative discs, Steven Isserlis’s Dvorák compilation offers an orchestrated version of the op.82 song quoted in the second movement and then memorably recalled at the end of the B minor Cello Concerto. There is also a short track providing (largely for reference) the much abbreviated original last part of the concerto’s finale, written before the composer had heard of his sister-in-law’s death. Isserlis partners these with Dvorák’s little-known A major Concerto, an early foray in this genre, revised and orchestrated by the composer Günther Raphael. Significantly abbreviated from the original sketches, it is best described as superior student work – useful technically, particularly since it refers to some figuration that appears in the later concerto. Isserlis is always fervent and persuasive, though he cannot rescue the early composition from being somewhat routine.

The main body of this clear recording is devoted to the B minor Concerto, which Isserlis invests with supremely idiomatic drama and poetry, bringing both warmth and tremendously heartfelt verve to his performance, enhanced by Daniel Harding’s great attention to orchestral detail. Isserlis’s great sensitivity and ear for nuance shade the Adagio exquisitely, and his technical command is, of course, absolute.


Joanne Talbot