Steven Isserlis

Saint-Saëns: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

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Sometimes, not often but sometimes, a little Saint-Saëns is just the thing. When you're in the right mood, his attractive melodies, piquant harmonies, brilliant colors, graceful tempos, and reserved emotionalism can be rather appealing. When you find yourself in that mood, this disc of Saint-Saëns' works for cello and orchestra will be the ideal aural companion. English cellist Steven Isserlis brings to Saint-Saëns' music exactly the qualities needed to succeed: affection, enthusiasm, taste, and virtuosity. In the First Cello Concerto with Michael Tilson Thomas leading the London Symphony Orchestra and the Second with Christoph Eschenbach leading the NDR Sinfonieorchester, Isserlis dominates the music without overpowering it, convincing the listener without compelling him or her. Dueting with American violinist Joshua Bell in La muse et le poète, Isserlis sings of love and youth and summers in the Palais des Tuileries. In the Suite, Isserlis flirts with neo-Classicism so outrageously that it comes close to neo-Rococo. And with organist Francis Grier in Prière, Isserlis sweetly and sincerely hymns the eternal and the infinite. While much more would be too much, this disc is just enough when you find yourself in the mood for Saint-Saëns. RCA's digital sound is warm but a bit too close for comfort.

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