Isserlis Energizes Martinu Sonatas

Steven Isserlis turns in an attractive program of cello music with this new SACD. Bohuslav Martinu wrote in a very distinctive style; one that was remarkably consistent throughout his long and prolific career. Martinu wrote tonal works, but they were his own version of tonality.

Dancing syncopation and shimmering chords are Martinu trademarks, and they’re here in abundance. Playing two or more of Martinu compositions back-to-back — especially ones using the same forces can have the effect of blurring them together. Isserlis avoids this by interspersing works by two composers whose styles complement Martinu’s, simultaneously providing contrast and creating a coherent program.

Jean Sibelius’ Malinconia, Op. 20 is a dark work, written after the death of the composer’s infant daughter. Isserlis convincingly brings out the pathos of the work, while at the same time savoring the beauty of Sibelius’ extended melodic lines.

Pianinst Olli Mustonen not only partners with Isserlis in these performances; he also provides a sonata as well. Mustonen’s post-romantic composition fits in nicely with the Martinu and Sibelius works, with plenty of rich sonorities and juicy melodic tidbits.

Isserlis has recorded these works before, and this time he doesn’t hold back. Martinu’s music has a certain lightness to it, but Isserlis makes it more compelling by really digging into the notes. The urgent character his technique brings to these works makes them, in my opinion, some of the best recorded versions of Martinu’s cello sonatas to date. And if you have an opportunity, listen to this release through an SACD player. The intimate nature of this chamber music becomes all the more vivid with the additional sonic details the format provides.

Bohuslav Martinu: Cello Sonatas 1-3; Works by Sibelius and Mustonen
Steven Isserlis, cello; Olli Mostonen, piano
BIS SACD

More Recent Posts

  • Leon Fleisher – All the Things You Are

    Listen to this album very carefully. Otherwise, it’s easy to forget that  Leon Fleisher is performing with just his left hand. The chords are so artfully arpeggiated, and the movement up and down the keyboard so swift, that Fleisher maintains the illusion that he’s playing with both hands. And that’s sort of the point. These […]

  • Review: tUnE-yArDs with James Tillman at The Jefferson Theater, 10-17-14

    Tickets provided to author courtesy of the Jefferson. When you walk into a tUnE-yArDs show, you expect a little abnormality. After all, the band prides itself in weaving bold statements with playfully polished indie-pop, and of course, sort of a vibrant, out-there aesthetic. The crowd is alive, fidgeting with anticipation, and the stage set, adorned […]

  • Oct 18 Gather ‘Round: Buzzard Hollow Boys, Michael Clem Trio, & Take Two

    Gather ‘Round each Saturday night from 8-9 for WTJU Folk‘s concert series; both archived and live. There will be shows from The Prism Coffeehouse and VA Folklife archives mixed in with some from our announcers’ own libraries. And you never know when a live concert might pop up! This week’s concert features the three acts […]

  • New Blues Adds – 10/15/2014

      First a quick note!  I want to welcome Ann Porotti back from her travels and thank her for allowing me to fill in on posting new jazz and blues while she was away.  We have decided to split the task of publishing the new recordings in order to make the task more efficient and […]

  • Manfredini String Quartets – They’re OK

    Vincenzo Manfredini (1737-1799) spent most of his professional life at the Russian Imperial Court, before retiring to Bologna to write and teach. During that time he published his set of six string quartets, which are performed on this album. The quartets aren’t ground-breaking like those of Haydn and Mozart written around the same time. Manfredini’s […]

  • A Morning of Marvelous Musical Treats!

    This Friday on Vivace, we have some special musical treats for you. We start gently at 6 am with a Sonata for Flute and Piano by Danish composer Friedrich Kuhlau and, for viola fans, a viola concerto by Carl Stamitz. We will also salute British composer Herbert Howells on his 122nd birthday – appropriately with […]