What a versatile artist Steven Isserlis is. Having made his name as a sympathetic interpreter of a wide variety of romantic and modern music, here he shows he can be just as persuasive in eighteenth-century repertoire. His stylistic awareness is evident in beautiful, elegant phrasing, selective use of vibrato and varied articulation, giving an expressive range that never conflicts with the music’s natural language. In the cello concertos he is helped by an extremely sensitive accompaniment, stressing the chamber musical aspects of Haydn’s pre-London orchestral writing. The soft, intimate sonority at 3'06'' in the first movement of the D major is a typical example. The Adagios are taken at a flowing speed, but Isserlis’s relaxed approach means they never sound hurried. The Allegro molto finale of the C major Concerto, on the other hand, sounds poised rather than the helter-skelter we often hear. In his understanding of the music, Isserlis is a long way ahead of Han-na Chang, whose version places the emphasis on fine, traditional-style cello playing. Mork’s vivacious, imaginative performances characterize the music very strongly, but my preference would be for Isserlis’s and Norrington’s lighter touch and greater refinement.
Václav Jan Krvtitel Tomásek wrote numerous songs and short piano pieces, genres in which his works predate those of his rather more famous near contemporary Franz Schubert by some years. Quite why they are so neglected today is a mystery as this enthralling new album from Renata Pokupic' and Roger Vignoles unfolds twenty-eight songs of a rare appeal. Perhaps we should not be surprised: Tomáek was one of the very few composers of Goethe settings to meet with the great poet's (relatively) undivided approval.
Principals Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae dance Ashton’s Rhapsody, created for The Royal Ballet in 1980 with the star parts taken by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Lesley Collier. Ashton provided spectacular choreography to suit the dancers’ virtuoso abilities. Lauren Cuthbertson and Vadim Muntagirov lead a charismatic cast in Ashton’s poignant and heart-warming reflection on love, The Two Pigeons, based on an old French folktale and first performed on Valentine’s Day 1961. These two ballets by the Company’s Founder Choreographer capture The Royal Ballet’s famous skill and distinctive style. Barry Wordsworth conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in the rapturous Rachmaninoff and Messager scores.