Liszt/Grieg/Rubinstein

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Liszt/Grieg/Rubinstein
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Elegie No. 1; Elegie No. 2; Romance oubliée; Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth; La lugubre gondola; Cello Sonata in A minor; Cello Sonata No. 1
PERFORMER: Steven Isserlis (cello); Stephen Hough (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68290 2 DDD
With the exception of one work, this generously timed disc is full of cello curios. Hard to believe that Liszt should have written anything for the cello – and indeed all the works began life for other forces – but they’re all here on this disc. A couple of Elegies reveal music of no spectacular interest but Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth seems to head in the same direction as the astonishingly chromatic Lugubre gondola, played here with all the mystery and creepiness it requires.

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Another great piano virtuoso, Anton Rubinstein, wrote much more substantially for the cello, though these works are unjustly neglected. Here Isserlis plays only one of the two sonatas – a pity, given the main intention of this CD. Its barcarolle-like middle movement is a delight. Presumably thoughts of sales prompted the inclusion of Grieg’s ‘warhorse’, which is the only well-known work – and a searing performance it receives, for which much credit must go to Isserlis’s partner, Stephen Hough. For a player of Isserlis’s temperament, this music fits him like a glove, providing him with luscious opportunities to show his wide range of Romantic colours. And in Hough, the required virtuosity is there in abundance. Annette Morreau