It’s nearly twenty years since Steven Isserlis’s still fresh-sounding accounts of Haydn’s Cello Concertos with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Roger Norrington were recorded. This new set has the advantages of CPE Bach’s striking A major Concerto, Bremen’s excellent Kammerphilharmonie and superb recorded sound, darker in colour than the bright-ringing 1998 version.
His interpretations, graceful and finely-etched before, now have a more rugged depth, and the new variants on his own cadenzas speak of experience. In the first Moderato of Haydn’s C major he’s more boldy exuberant, yet more deftly self-effacing in the Adagio compared with his surprising, exploratory earlier version.
As Isserlis points out, the D major Second Concerto reflects its dedicatee Anton Kraft’s technique in the highest registers. Here passagework is wonderfully supple, always shaped by his inimitable expressive urgency. There’s sufficient bite and sinew from both Isserlis and the DK players to the swinging Rondo not to let it pall. His own arrangement of Mozart’s heavenly ‘Geme la tortorella’ from La finta giardiniera, is a masterclass in radiant, unshowy legato.
Their take on CPE Bach’s A major Concerto makes an interesting comparison with the recent award-winning recording by Nicolas Altstaedt and Arcangelo. The latter offer a lower pitch, swifter fast movements, a slower Adagio with more daring glissandos and highly characterful interplay between violins and solo cello. While Isserlis’s refined but lively reading places CPE Bach nearer to his Classical successors, the mercurial Altstaedt belongs in a Baroque world of extremity.