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In performance: Isserlis/Gerstein

Cellist Steven Isserlis has an unusually personal connection with the scores he played on Wednesday at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Schumann's A Minor Violin Sonata, No. 3, appeared here in Isserlis's own quite idiomatic-sounding transcription for the cello. The arrangement, he said in comments before performing the piece, was made in recompense for the five lost cello romances Schumann wrote shortly after the Violin Sonata, and which his wife, Clara, burned as music too sub-par for her husband's legacy.

Isserlis's bond with Rachmaninoff's G Minor Cello Sonata, Op. 19, is more of a family matter: The cellist's grandfather was the pianist in the second performance of the piece -- played by its dedicatee, Anatoli Brandukov -- following its world premiere.
(read more after the jump)

More important, though, was the fact that Isserlis's warm, woody tone and freely rhapsodic playing (alternately rapt and passionately expressive) suited both works perfectly. He commanded an impeccable legato line in the slow movements of each work, and the fusillade of notes in Schumann's restless, often ecstatic writing was delivered with polish and panache. Yet for all the physical extroversion of Isserlis's playing style, his gauging of dynamics was admirably subtle, with notes struck more for their delicate, coloristic effect than for rhetorical force.

That subtlety, when set beside pianist Kirill Gerstein's full-toned, firmly etched playing, sometimes resulted in the cello line getting swallowed up by the keyboard. Only in the crisp dialogue of Britten's Cello Sonata, Op. 65 -- where the cello and piano seem to be playfully finishing each other's sentences -- did the balance achieve real parity.

-- Joe Banno

Note: Kirill Gerstein was announced this week as the winner of this year's Gilmore Artist Award, a $300,000 prize awarded every four years.

By Anne Midgette  |  January 8, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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Next: In performance: NSO with Slatkin, Znaider


My 2ยข:

Posted by: Charles_D | January 8, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

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