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

  • The Most Comprehensive Halloween Playlist You Will Ever Need

    Compiled by WTJX DJs, this 6+ hour long playlist is absolutely terrifying. Hosting a Halloween party? Want to expose your neighborhood’s trick-or-treaters to some excellent music? The student DJs of WTJX have done the heavy lifting for you. Just hit play and enjoy.  

  • Tippett Quartet perform Two Polish Masters

    The Tippet Quartet is a young ensemble that continues to explore the under-recorded portions of the string quartet repertoire. I enjoyed their Naxos recording of Miklos Rozsa’s music, and I enjoyed this release — albeit for different reasons. On paper, Andrzej Panufnik and Witold Lutoslawski may seem like a good match. Both composers are from […]

  • October 31st: It’s not just Halloween!

    This Friday, there are three special days in one and we’ll celebrate them all on Vivace. Of course, it’s Halloween, and we’ll enjoy the Symphonie Fantastique in the first hour.  After that, we’ll focus on the other two special days: All Saints’ Eve and Reformation Day.   At about 7:15 am, we’ll hear the beautiful […]

  • 2014-15 Orchestra Season by the Numbers

    The Baltimore Symphony’s blog released an amazing infographic by Rachel Upton and Ricky O’Bannon that quantifies the 2014-15 season for 21 major symphony orchestras. It’s well-worth exploring.  It shows a little more diversity than one may assume — almost 10% of the music performed was written after 2000. That’s pretty significant, though 1886 remains the […]

  • WTJU has adapted “War of the Worlds” for modern-day Charlottesville. You’re welcome.

    This year, enjoy a special Halloween treat courtesy of WTJU: an adaptation of the original 1938 CBS radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds,” by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater. The original CBS production was realistic, using a news-bulletin format that was reported to have frightened listeners who believed it was a real […]

  • New Blues, Soul and Gospel Adds – 10/28/2014

    New Blues News – 10/28/2014 Blues Adds: Altered Five Blues Band – Cryin’ Mercy (Omnivibe):  Polished blues and soul band from the midwest with Jeff Taylor, whose sand paper edged vocals give a nice edge to a style that sounds like a blend of Jimmy Witherspoon and BB King without the shout.  The band features […]