Steven Isserlis - Children's Cello
Here’s another way to present a ‘My First Recital’ type of programme. Steven Isserlis and Stephen Hough open with a beginners’ open-string solo (Ludwig Lebell’s Berceuse orientale) and continue with increasingly challenging material that culminates in Gaspar Cassadó’s bravura Requiebros. But what really makes the recital special is its avoidance of the tried and true. Yes, there’s an arrangement of Boccherini’s Minuet (made famous in the Ealing film The Ladykillers) and another of Fauré’s Berceuse, but there’s also Francis Purcell Warren’s magical A Sunday Evening in Autumn, with its gently pealing piano part, and the tender elegance of George Dyson’s Melody (an English counterpart to Rachmaninov’s Vocalise).
The contemporary selections are especially satisfying. Gavin Bryars’s With Miriam by the River pays homage to the composer’s cello-playing mother in music of quiet, lyrical intensity. Howard Blake’s Archangel’s Lullaby, written to celebrate the birth of Isserlis’s son Gabriel, has a Fauré-like sensibility that must please the cellist (an admitted Fauré fanatic) no end. Olli Mustonen’s Frogs Dancing on Water-Lilies also bows towards France: it begins with the opening chords (transposed) of Debussy’s Violin Sonata before hopping away with surprising amphibian grace.
Hough’s Angelic Song (yet another gift to Gabriel Isserlis) is a ravishingly simple meditation. Isserlis père’s own The Haunted House may not merit repeated hearings but its silliness is sure to provide a chuckle or two, aided by Simon Callow’s sly narration, and the cello’s role as sound-effects machine could motivate many youngsters to pick up instrument. Delightful.