Leux Retrouvés

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Liszt; Fauré; Janácek; Adès; Kurtág
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Leux Retrouvés
WORKS: Works for cello and piano
PERFORMER: Steven Isserlis (cello); Thomas Adès (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA67948

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As if Thomas Adès’s composing and conducting skills were each not exceptional enough, he continues to grace the musical world with his piano playing as well. Match this with the mellow sound and manner of Steven Isserlis’s cello, and you have something very special.

Their choice of repertory here – devised as an extended upbeat to Adès’s Lieux retrouvés at the end of the programme – is unusual, memorable, and wonderfully performed from start to finish. Most of Liszt’s small chamber music output consists of his own arrangements of his songs and piano music: here are three of the finest, including Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth and the mournfully haunting La lugubre gondola (an adaptation of the second of the two piano pieces of that title).

Janácek’s Pohádka can often come across as a rather perfunctory statement: Isserlis and Adès reveal it as a spellbinding piece of musical story-telling, while the expansive manner of Fauré’s Second Cello Sonata is offset by four of György Kurtág’s bleak, ultra-concentrated solo pieces, projected by Isserlis with vividness. The four numbers of Lieux retrouvés, written with Adès’s unerring skill, are mostly fairly conventional in manner and gesture. Isserlis handles the stratospheric demands of ‘Les champs’ with phenomenal control. The recorded sound is atmospheric, although the cello is set rather close.

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Malcolm Hayes