CD of the Week: Steven Isserlis: Haydn & Bach Cello Concertos

One of the world’s leading cellists pays tribute to the pioneers of the classical cello concerto with humor and grace.

Steven Isserlis does it all: he is an educator, broadcaster, author, and Artistic Director, among many things. At the top of his resume is celebrated cellist. The newest addition to his expansive discography celebrates the early champions of the cello. In each work, he demonstrates an aspect of writing for the instrument, from the lyrical grace of Haydn’s concerti to the offbeat jests found in those of C.P.E. Bach.

In the album, Isserlis displays not only his technical prowess, but also his skills as a composer and arranger. As is his tradition with each recording, he adds an “extra treat,” as he calls it, to this album: an arrangement of the aria “Geme la tortorella” from Mozart’s opera La finta giardiniera. This piece provides another opportunity for the British cellist to showcase the rich sonority of the instrument, emulating the voice of an operatic soprano.

The concerti by these three composers are cornerstones of the cello repertoire, and Isserlis provides a thoughtful approach to the timeless classics. And it's not just a superb recording: the CD is worth a perusal for the liner notes as well. Within them, Isserlis walks the listener through each piece on the album, placing the pieces within the musical and cultural context of their time - but he does so with his characteristic dry wit. Highlights include a fictional finicky musicologist and an insinuation that the premiere of C.P.E. Bach's concerto caused the royal audience to soil their pants.

Listen to samples from the album:

For more information, to sample tracks, and to purchase this recording, visit Hyperion Records.

Listen to an interview and performances of Steven Isserlis on WCRB's The Bach Hour.

Track listing:

1-3. Haydn: Cello Concerto in C
4. Mozart: La finta giardiniera: "Geme la tortorella"
5-7. C.P.E. Bach: Cello Concerto in A
8-10. Haydn: Cello Concerto in D
11. Boccherini: Cello Concerto in G: Adagio