Shostakovich • Kabalevsky • Prokofiev
Cello Sonatas and other works
Steven Isserlis vc, Olli Mustonen p
Hyperion CDA68239

Chamber Recording of the Year

Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen’s chamber music passions run the complete Soviet gamut

The Kabalevsky sonata is a fairly recent acquisition for us, but it’s one that Olli mustonen and I both love. We are so enthusiastic about it. it’s a fantastic piece and the music is fabulous. – Steven Isserlis

The first name you might think of on seeing the cover of this album is that of Rostropovich, for whom Shostakovich and Prokofiev composed some of their greatest music. But these works were created much earlier. It’s a tribute to Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen that it’s hard to imagine more thoughtful, well-prepared performances. Yet this is also playing in which everything is “in the moment”. Every vivid emotion – passion, anguish, hysteria, vivacity, despair – makes it mark. Mustonen brings a composer’s sensibility to his work, and a deep knowledge of these musical worlds from his other life as conductor. Isserlis is en pointe throughout – this is a tremendous partnership.

The one major work here that was written for Rostropovich is in some ways the album’s great revelation. Kabalevsky’s Sonata in B Flat is absorbing. There is an impassioned melancholy in the opening movement, a ‘haunted ballroom’ quality to the second and a roller-coaster ride of a finale. It’s a real puzzle that this work is not played more frequently.

Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata has plenty of caustic wit, gloom and existential angst, while the Ballade for Cello and Piano in C Minor by the young Prokofiev is a rhapsodic, wild-haired work that sinks into an exhausted conclusion. This is fine programming, and like all the works on this album, it takes you on a tempestuous emotional ride, ending on a note of deep regret. Phillip Sametz

Read our review

Read our interview with Steven Isserlis

Limelight‘s Recording of the Year 2019

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