RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR
Isserlis’s combination of singing legato and short, period-aware attack are still evident, but with their beauty heightened
Charlotte Gardner cherishes the remaking of a classic, as Steven Isserlis returns to Haydn’s cello concertos with glorious and uplifting results
Haydn . CPE Bach . Boccherini . Mozart
CPE Bach Cello Concerto, Wq172 H439 Boccherini Cello Concerto, G480 – Adagio Haydn Cello Concertos – No 1; No 2 Mozart La finta giardiniera – Geme la tortorella (arr Isserlis) Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen / Steven Isserlis vc Hyperion F CDA68162 (78’ • DDD)
It’s a comparatively rare event for an artist to be afforded the luxury of recording a major work for a second time. Or indeed for them to want to. So it’s always interesting when this does happen, especially if their first recording holds up well to the test of time. That’s certainly the case in this particular instance, as many readers will still be enjoying the elegant readings of Haydn’s two cello concertos that Steven Isserlis made in 1998 with Sir Roger Norrington and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
So you might wonder why Isserlis has revisited these works almost 20 years on. More importantly, have his interpretations changed all that much? After all, there’s so little difference between Rostropovich’s 1964 and 1975 recordings of the First Concerto (which I believe is the only other instance of a cellist re-recording either of the Haydns) that you’re slightly left wondering why he revisited it.
Isserlis doesn’t discuss his reasons in his cheerfully irreverent and hugely informative booklet note, but in truth the moment you press play you’re not really going to care anyway, because this is absolutely wonderful stuff. As for whether the interpretations have changed, the answer is a gloriously twopronged ‘yes and no’, because these interpretations sing of an artist still thoroughly in tune with his previous thoughts, but who is keen to develop those ideas further. He’s been supported every step of his way in this pursuit by the warmly responsive Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, and indeed by the expertly judged subtle glow of the sound engineering.
The tempos are a case in point. Back in 1998 these were a story of breakneck speeds being eschewed, while at the same time giving the distinct impression in the fast movements of heightened drama and momentum. Fastforward to 2017 and that original approach has generally been cleaved to; but while the differences in duration are negligible, they all involve the addition rather than the subtraction of seconds. The C major’s third movement is a particularly golden example because here, despite the addition of 12 seconds to the previous recording’s still comparatively PH O T O G R A P H Y
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22 GRAMOPHONE RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR 2017
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