The cello is well served by fine sonatas from a wide variety of composers great and small, and few are more enjoyable to listen to than the three Bohuslav Martinu wrote between 1939 and 1952. From the dramatic first (written in the throes of a doomed love affair and as his homeland Czechoslovakia was falling to the Nazis) to the celebratory and at times humorous later works composed in America, this is terrific music, which challenges the soloist.
The charismatic and tireless Steven Isserlis seems never to be out of the recording studios these days and for this we can be thankful when we get albums of the quality of this new release with Finnish pianist Olli Mustonen.
In his quirky trademark liner notes Isserlis describes how he and Mustonen met when Olli was 16 and they performed in a concert in Finland. We get to hear another side of this talented pianist, for he is no mean composer. Mustonen wrote his cello sonata in 2006 and this is a world premiere recording. It's accessible, tonal music with a feeling for landscape and legends such as you find in Sibelius.
Isserlis recorded the Martinu for Hyperion back in 1989 (it was at a Musica Viva concert waiting to get a signed copy that Barry Humphries remarked in a wicked aside: “I wonder if he’ll sign my Yo Yo Ma for me!”) and this new recording is its equal, combining brio with a musical partnership, which is irresistible.