Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor, Op 85; Walton: Cello Concerto; Holst: Invocation, Op 19 No 1; Imogen Holst: The fall of the leaf

Reviewed on Wed 30 Mar, 2016

Isserlis is no less expressive in Walton’s late, bittersweet Concerto, his playing marked by a measured maturity that delves deep into the crepuscular introspection of the outer movements and revels in the Indian Summer exhilaration of the central scherzo.

A quarter of a century and more has passed since Steven Isserlis recorded Elgar’s angst-ridden Cello Concerto with Richard Hickox and the London Symphony Orchestra (Virgin Classics). Time has added much to his reading of a work caught between fraught despair (composed in 1919, the horror of recent conflict is palpable) and poignant escape in music. The extremes of melancholy and anguish are more pronounced, the desperate search for beauty more heartfelt. Isserlis is no less expressive in Walton’s late, bittersweet Concerto, his playing marked by a measured maturity that delves deep into the crepuscular introspection of the outer movements and revels in the Indian Summer exhilaration of the central scherzo. Gustav Holst’s seraphic Invocation and Imogen Holst’s contemplatively wistful variations, The fall of the leaf, draw comparably sensitive and satisfying playing from Isserlis. Support from the Philharmonia Orchestra under Paavo Järvi is both adroitly tempered and wholly attuned to the soloist’s fierceness and finesse.
–Michael Quinn