Hyperion is delighted to present the world’s best-loved cello concerto performed by one of the world’s best-loved cellists: national treasure Steven Isserlis. Isserlis has waited 40 years to record this pinnacle of the repertoire, and here with his regular collaborators, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Daniel Harding, this long gestation has proved to be overwhelmingly fruitful. Isserlis writes of the concerto that ‘the power of its emotional journey, expressed with Dvořák’s characteristically folk-like simplicity and directness, offers an irresistible mix of the epic and the touchingly confessional’. The combination of emotional power and simplicity is also a feature of Isserlis’s playing, and part of what makes him such a consummate performer of this work.
This album puts Dvořák’s B minor cello concerto in context, including not only the original ending, but an orchestral version of the song Lasst mich allein which is quoted in the concerto’s second and third movements.
Isserlis has also recorded a version of Dvořák’s first cello concerto, a little-known work from the composer’s early period which he never orchestrated. This version (in what is almost definitely its premiere recording) is by German composer Günter Raphael, whose works were performed by Furtwängler among others, and is extensively rewritten from the composer’s original. To turn to Isserlis’s own words again: ‘Of course, it is not a masterpiece on the level of the later B minor concerto; but is it fair to lock up an older child just because their younger sibling is a genius? I love the A major concerto for the beauty of its melodies, for the freshness of its inspiration, for its typically rustic spirit—and for the sense of sheer joy that bubbles through the entire work.’