Notes and Editorial Reviews
Steven Isserlis first recorded Brahms' cello sonatas for Hyperion in the mid-1980s with Peter Evans at the piano, in sensitive, forthright, and excellently engineered interpretations. His remakes nearly 20 years later generally reveal a more flexible, longer-lined approach, helped by an even more pliable bow arm and wider range of tone color. The earlier recording may be hard to find, but if you happen to have a copy, do an A/B comparison with the F major sonata's second movement and you'll immediately understand what I mean. With Stephen Hough's world-class keyboard mastery, the piano part's thick chords and frequent three-against-two rhythmic patterns rarely have sounded so transparent and lithe.
Notice also the unusually lucid delineation of the busy canonic intersections in the E minor sonata's first movement, the wry lilt in the central movement's outer sections, and the F major finale's refreshing lightness and playful demeanor, making Brahms' frequent displacements of phrases against the meter seem utterly uncontrived.
Naturally there are other valid ways to play these works, and I don't expect to trade in Rostropovich's imposing, large-scaled vantage point, nor the matchless third-movement fugal interplay Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax achieve in their Sony remake of the E minor sonata. However, the affectionate and characterful Suk and Dvorák performances that fill out this disc may well give Isserlis and Hough the edge among reference editions. And let's not forget to mention Hyperion's atmospheric, beautifully balanced engineering. Highly recommended. [2/22/2006]
– Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com [reviewing the original release]
Works on This Recording
Featured Sound Samples
Serenade for Cello and Piano (Suk)
Cello Sonata no 2 (Brahms): IV. Allegro molto
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