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Cello Works

Steven Isserlis Audio CD


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Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Samples
Song Title Time Price
Listen  1. Concerto For Violoncello and Orchestra No. 2 in D minor Op. 119 (1902): Allegro moderato e maestoso; Andante sostenuto12:01Album Only
Listen  2. Concerto For Violoncello and Orchestra No. 2 in D minor Op. 119 (1902): Allegro non troppo; Cadenza; Tempo I; Molto allegro 6:040.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. La Muse et le Pote, Op. 13215:52Album Only
Listen  4. Romance for Violoncello and Orchestra, Op. 67 7:080.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Cello Sonata No. 2, Op. 123: Maestoso, largamente 9:410.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Cello Sonata No. 2, Op. 123: Scherzo con variazioni 8:410.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. Cello Sonata No. 2, Op. 123: Romanza: Poco adagio 8:500.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. Allegro non troppo, grazioso 6:220.99  Buy MP3 


Product Description

Amazon.co.uk

Steven Isserlis makes a compelling case for a re-evaluation of these late Saint-Saëns works for cello, both by his gorgeous playing and his highly entertaining liner notes. The concerto dates from 1902 and the sonata from 1905, but the musical language of the two works would not have seemed out of place 50 years earlier. This fact, combined with the phenomenal difficulty of the solo part in the concerto (occasionally written on two staves) has not helped the two pieces to gain a foothold in the repertoire--but if there's justice in the world, Isserlis' dramatic, lyrical, passionate and witty account of them should change that situation. He finds exactly the right tone of Gallic objectivity and restraint, without ever compromising the pathos of a phrase or the build up of tension necessary for some impressive climaxes. The sumptuous orchestral accompaniment involves some crystal-clear woodwind playing, and perfectly balances the solo part. Add Joshua Bell on top form in La Muse, and a supernaturally sympathetic pianist in the shape of Pascal Devoyon for the sonata, and you have a disc worth swapping your Stradivarius for. --Warwick Thompson

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Recording of Little Know Saint Saens 30 Jan 2001
By David A. Wend - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
The works on this disc are not heard very often but is music that is certainly worthy of frequent hearing. This recording of the Second Cello Concerto follows upon an earlier recording of Saint Saens First with the same forces. The second concerto is more lyrical and less dramatic than the first and is cast in two movements. La Muse ET la poete is an interesting work with a dialogue between a violin (played by Joshua Bell) and a cello with orchestra. The romance is an interesting work with cello and horn as solo instruments. Perhaps the most dramatic work is the Cello Sonata, a brilliant work that is quite a showpiece for the cello. Steven Isserlis is wonderful in this recording and Christoph Eschenbach and the North German Radio Symphony ably support him. If you enjoy the music of Saint Saens it is worth exploring these lesser know works.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE REAL SAINT-SAENS (an underrated composer) 23 Feb 2008
By Raymond Vacchino - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
As discussed in an interview with Steven Isserlis and Jeremy Nicholas on an underrated composer, we find that Saint-Saens was indeed a brilliant composer, conductor, pianist, play write, poet and lecturer.

He gave his concert debut at the age of ten and when asked to give an encore Saint-Saens announced to the audience that he could play all of the Beethoven sonatas by memory and would be pleased to perform any one of their choosing! His compositional output was not prolific considering the long life he had, unlike Schubert. Perhaps it was due to the fact that Saint-Saens was an "experimenter." He also had no "real" style that could be pinpointed as a result, yet his compositions for the cello were extremely difficult and purely lyrical.

He was a brilliant pianist, performing his "Marche Militaire Francaise" composed in 1904 in concert in his eighties with a virtuosic technique, crystalline fast notes and admirable accuracy. In his orchestration of a cello suite for cello and piano, done at the end of his career, Op.16, he added an extra Tarantella movement showing off the silly side of his character. At his eighty-third birthday party many people attended to just make this misunderstood, great human being feel ignored and slighted. Artur Rubenstein met Saint-Saens, and described him as fat man that looked like a french bank official, nervous speech with a large hooked nose and spoke with a lisp.

Very much like Beethoven and Brahms, people either liked them or hated them. Yet underneath both men was a compassionate, loving individual. Saint-Saens loved Faure, and would do anything he could for him. In return Faure treated him like a son. Saint-Saens had a tragic life and a marriage that fell apart after his two very young son's died only six weeks apart. His uncontrolled grief was to cause him to blame the deaths on his wife causing her to leave Saint-Saens. Strangely enough, his grief was to show up in a Requiem Mass composed just eight days before the death of his first child.

The Cello Sonata No.2, is lesser known and difficult to grasp at first, unlike the first sonata, yet when finally inside the work it conveys its deeply felt pure lyricism, passion, intense depth of mood and seamless phrases, very much like the magnificent "Berceuse" in B flat, composed for violin and piano. (Look for performance by Pascal Devoyon and Philippe Graffin). This is a work that should be a staple of every cellist's repertoire.

The second Cello Concerto is a masterpiece and the performance given by Steven Isserlis and Christoph Eschenbach with the NDR Sinfonieorchester is stellar. The slow movement is conveyed like a gem to behold. It is deeply felt, monstrously difficult, purely lyrical and looks like a piano part. It offers a perfect balance of melodic lines that are lovingly cherished. The other striking aspect about this performance is the expansive range of colour, not only from the soloists but also from the Orchestra who play their hearts out.

"La Muse et le Poete" Op.132, adds a poetic dialogue to the cello played on the violin by the cherished and impressive Joshua Bell. Adding Eschenbach and the NDR Orchestra to the performance conveys the full vitality, inflections, the more agitated passages within the piece, and makes their finale a culmination of unanimity in their shared passages.

"Romance" Op.67, is a piece to be relished with passages that convey musical interplay between the cello and horn section. Its themes are beautifully resourceful and harmonically adventurous, which show an awareness of the musical establishment of the period.

As one would expect, the overall performances are all superior due to the exceptional calibre of the artists. The comprehensive approach and musical "purity" reveal a solidly established personality allied to good taste, forthright, powerful and formidable virtuosity.

Author: Raymond Vacchino M.Mus. Classical Music Critic
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Late Saint Saens on Bach, Mahler, Berlioz, Beethoven and Brahms 30 Nov 2011
By RJAdams - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This album tells us something about Saint Saens' esteem of Bach, someone whose rediscovery by the French public took time. Both the second cello concerto and second sonata pay oblique homage to Bach's love of polyphony, baroque decoration, and exploration of technique to create the illusion of many voices from a bowed instrument. One cannot refrain from thinking of Bach's cello suites while listening to these works. British cellist Steven Isserlis is captured in detailed sound and in thrilling performances of both works with wild runs up and down his fingerboard, massive double stops, and slews of arpeggiated figures. The adagietto at about 4:30 into the concerto recalls the sarabandes of those suites and also, uncannily, Mahler in repose, as in the fifth symphony's adagietto or the beginning of the finale of the 10th symphony, in a moment of unsurpassed calm and acceptance. The sonata's second movement is an eight and a half minute "scherzo con variazioni" that reaches the heights scaled in the theme and variations genre by Brahms and Beethoven. It's as though Saint Saens is claiming he, too, belongs among that august assembly, and hearing this recording you might just agree. Isserlis, his superb pianist Pascal Devoyon, conductor Christoph Eschenbach with the NDR Symphony Orchestra (Hamburg), and the engineers have taken pains to make sure you hear all the passion and all the notes in these scores.

If you yearn for a stirring Cello Concerto with Berlioz-like orchestration, exuberant baroque textures, and romantic melodic grace, look no further. It puzzles me that classical FM radio would play the Elgar, Dvorak, Schumann or Saint Saens first concerto two hundred times (pick a number) for every airing of this equally worthy opus. I have not heard other versions, such as the celebrated Philips Walevska/Inbal recording on Pentatone dating back about 30 years, but the American Record Guide's quite reliable cello critic David Moore thinks Isserlis is the best overall. A final bonus is La Muse et le Poete, op.132, a glorious 15 minute violin/cello double concerto, where Isserlis is joined by Joshua Bell. Here the cake is the sinfully delicious confection we expect from Saint Saens at the top of his game. All readings are cogent and vigorous with tight ensemble.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Saint-Saens' later cello compositions - beautiful performances 22 Aug 2011
By jt52 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This work is essentially the second volume of Steven Isserlis' traversal of the cello music of Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921), mostly covering works from 1902-1910. I want to start by praising Isserlis - just an amazing cellist - and his collaborators, the always excellent Parisian pianist, Pascal Devoyon, the NDF Symphony (from North Germany) led by Christoph Eschenbach and the American violinist, Joshua Bell. All the performers do outstanding work here. Bell in particular delivers a very idiomatic and sensitive performance of the "Poet and the Muse". Moreover, the sonics on this disc are audiophile quality. Aside from the music and the performances, I enjoyed the disc just for the luscious sound. Great performances and great engineering.

On to the music. Isserlis states in his excellent liner notes that Saint-Saens is a composer in need of a (positive) revaluation, which I agree with. Saint-Saens had a long and very productive compositional career. (He was generally an absolutely amazing person - gifted in many different fields.) With close to three hundred works, spread from the 1850s to the period after World War I, his output is difficult to assess and to pick out the really first-rate examples. In addition to popular works like the 3rd symphony and the 3rd violin concerto, I'd point to compositions such as the amazing 1st violin sonata, several of the symphonic poems, the 5th piano concerto, the 1st trio - well, you get the picture. A lot of music, some of it uneven, but some of it just very beautiful. The music that the other reviewers here on amazon have pointed to, "The poet and the muse" (1910), for violin, cello and orchestra, is probably the stand-out composition here. It is a free-form work involving a dialogue between the poet (Isserlis' cello) and the muse (Bell's violin), with some lovely melodies. Beyond that, I'd also point to the slow movement of the 2nd cello concerto (1902), which Isserlis rightfully describes as Mahlerian, as music I'm very happy to have heard for the first time on this CD. The rest of the concerto (essentially a standard three-movement concerto form but with the first two played uninterruptedly) as well as the earlier Romance(1885) for cello and orchestra, are attractive. The last half hour of the disc is taken up by the 2nd cello sonata (1905), which is an ambitious, long, very complex work which Saint-Saens apparently has great difficulty in writing. I found it less enjoyable and am not convinced it's one of the musician's stronger efforts.

So this is an imperfect disc, but one where the positives - two very strong individual pieces, outstanding performances and engineering - are balanced against some less appealing music. I'll go with the positives. This is a disc you'll be very happy to own if you're a fan of French classical or if you have a really good stereo system. 5 stars.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile 25 April 2009
By David Saemann - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This is a very solid program of lesser known Saint-Saens. The Second Concerto is an appealingly constructed work, although not very strong on melody. Isserlis gives it a strong, incisive performance, ably seconded by Christoph Eschenbach. The Muse and the Poet is perhaps the highlight of the album. It is a rapturous piece of writing. Joshua Bell plays exquisitely; he is virtually a natural Saint-Saens player. Isserlis blends with him expertly. The Romance is a lovely piece, dating from its original in the 1862 Suite for Cello and Piano. Isserlis plays this sensitively. My main complaint about the album is the performance of the Second Cello Sonata. Pascal Devoyan plays beautifully, as he always does. Isserlis's playing here has a great deal of integrity, but his tone is very dry. I have the performance of this by Maria Kliegel and Francois-Joel Thiollier, and Kliegel gets a warm, lyrical sound out of her instrument that makes the cello writing more appealing than it is in the hands of Isserlis. Despite this reservation, the current CD certainly is an important release for the cello repertoire, and I definitely enjoyed it.
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