I’m a big fan of Dvorák’s Cello Concertos (especially the B Minor) and have liked Isserlis cello work for years. He claims it’s taken almost 40 years to take on the Dvorák.
It’s a bold, intense and speedy version of the B Minor, and this is refreshing. Isserlis is capable of moments of great pathos, but also of using the instrument as a power tool, unleashing it in the way a Romantic concerto requires. The Concerto in A (revised and orchestrated by Günther Raphael) is often something of an afterthought, but here it stands out in its own right as a melodious and neglected work. Between them stands the short, poignant ‘Lasst Mich Allein’ (arranged for orchestra by Leopold), which has its echoes in the second movement of the B Minor concerto.
Musically, the balance between cello and chamber orchestra works well, and the vitality of the playing almost always comes across. However, it seems Hyperion raced through this (the notes suggest a two-day session) and the tone of the B Minor in particular is muddied and the orchestra seems muted and distant. The Concerto in A fares much better and is as breezy as the music.