Steven Isserlis

Haydn • CPE Bach • Boccherini
Cello Concertos
Steven Isserlis vc, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen

Haydn’s earlier Cello Concerto in C Major was rediscovered in Prague in 1961. It’s a substantial work, in three movements, like its D Major successor. Both were designed for virtuoso soloists, although 20 years separate the two: the C Major dating from the early 1760s and the D Major from 1783. CPE Bach’s A Major Cello Concerto is earlier still, from 1753. These three concertos form the basis of Steven Isserlis’s programme, filled out by his arrangement of an aria from Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera and the Adagio from Boccherini’s G Major Cello Concerto.

Isserlis, always an elegant cellist, recorded the two Haydn concertos previously with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Sir Roger Norrington. That has long been my favourite version, but much has changed in Classical period performance since 1998. The Bremen chamber orchestra displays the punchy attack and sparing use of vibrato that we expect nowadays. Isserlis has hardly modified his own performance style – not that he needed to – but his focus and purity of tone are even more evident in this new recording. He and the Bremen musicians get the balance of emotion and refined detachment absolutely right in the Largo of the CPE Bach concerto, while the various allegro movements have all the lightness of touch and warmth they require, particularly the bouncy 6/8 Rondo of Haydn’s D Major Concerto.