Collection: Cello World

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Berlioz,Carl Vine,Debussy,Faure,Rachmaninov,Saint-Saens,Schumann,Tavener,Villa-Lobos
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Works by Beethoven, Schumann, Berlioz, Fauré, Saint-Saëns, Villa-Lobos, Tavener, Debussy, Rachmaninov, Carl Vine,
PERFORMER: Steven Isserlis (cello), Thomas Adès, Dudley Moore, Michael Tilson Thomas (piano), Maggie Cole (harpsichord, piano), Felicity Lott (soprano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68928 2


No prizes for predicting that Isserlis’s Cello World would be unpredictable: yes, this collection of short pieces may contain The Swan and Popper’s fiendish Elfentanz, but thereafter we enter a private and idiosyncratic salon entertainment. Everywhere there are unmistakable hallmarks: his ancestral interest in things Russian, his wild humour, his passion for Schumann and Fauré, his relationship with John Tavener.

Novelties are the haunting, recently published Lied by a young Rachmaninov, Isserlis’s grandfather Julius’s homesick Souvenir russe, Seiber’s delightfully svelte ragtime Dance Suite, Carl Vine’s kaleidoscopic Inner World for cello and synthesized cello tape. Even The Swan is played in the lavish two-piano version.

Highlights include the pungent pizzicato dance by Georgian composer Tsintsadze, introduced to Isserlis by his hero Daniil Shafran. Dvorák’s fourth Romantic Piece is here heavy with the weight of the yearning that its stark, falling phrases suggest. As one would expect, Isserlis’s performance of Schumann’s Intermezzo from the valedictory Third Violin Sonata has a visionary eloquence, as does his rendering of Scriabin’s beautiful Romance.


Felicity Lott joins him for an exquisite reading of Berlioz’s La captive. His Debussy Nocturne et Scherzo is as light and liquid as one could wish for, but even Isserlis cannot quite match a flute’s fluidity in Fauré’s Morceau de concours, though what cellist could? Adès is an ideal partner, bringing an equally potent personality to the mix. Their deadpan delivery of Léonard’s Donkey and Driver is murderously funny.