David Threasher
The Strad
October 2017

Steven Isserlis returns to the Haydn concertos on disc, two decades on from his first recording of these two wonderful works. On that occasion his accompanists were the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Roger Norrington; this time he goes it alone, directing The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen from the soloist’s stool.

That earlier recording was something of a benchmark; and, interestingly enough, Isserlis’s interpretation over 20 years hasn’t so much developed as ‘bedded in’. Common to both recordings are his rhythmic freedom and effortless, focused sound; the instrument he plays is the 1726 ‘Marquis de Corberon’ Stradivari. What is different is the sound picture as recorded in Die Kammer-Philharmonie, Bremen: there’s a greater space and sense of air around the ensemble that on the earlier disc (the venue then the Watford Colosseum). Haydnistas will be more than happy with either of them.

Back in 1996 the partner work was the late Sinfonia Concertante with COE soloists, the filler the slow movement of Symphony No 13, with its starring role for the Esterházy principal cello, Joseph Weigl. This time we get a CPE Bach concerto, full of eccentricities and challenges for soloist and ensemble alike, plus an aria from Mozart’s La finta giardiniera arranged by Isserlis and a Boccherini slow movement—a delicate encore for cello accompaniment only by two-part violins. Delicious.