Cellist Steven Isserlis, pianist Connie Shih
Steven Isserlis is a performer of such visual magnetism that you want to watch him play as well as listen. In this yearís Musica Viva tour he and Canadian pianist Connie Shih form such a dynamic duo that they received a standing ovation.
They presented a program of sonatas with a strong and utterly delightful French connection.
Choosing Saint-Saens C minor Opus 32, as a starter was an inspiration because it seduced the audience into a state of enchantment from the start with all that power and passion.
Then Gabriel Faureís much-loved G minor Opus 117 filled with rapturous romanticism, prepared the audience for the very modernist piece - a sort of sonata in four movements ñ by Thomas AdËs.
This work was written especially for Isserlis and first performed by him in company with the composer himself at the piano.
The first movement is surprisingly melodious in its evocation of nature; the second tramples the senses, the third pushes the bow to seemingly impossible heights and the strange, wild fourth movement is so fiendishly difficult to play that at the end I found myself almost unbearably tense with suspense ñ though Isserlis made it seem deceptively easy.
A truly masterful performance of one of the most exciting cello works in the modernist repertoire. Traditionalists wonít find it easy to like this movement but itís worth making the effort to understand it.
During the Franck cello sonata in A Major finale I came to fully appreciate Isserlisí mastery of vibrato.
This sonata, perhaps because it was originally written for the violin, has often proved a trap for young cellists, tempting them into vibrato overkill.
The bow of Steven Isserlis is both experienced and subtle and right from the first lovely, yearning, warm notes I was enraptured because I so dearly love this sonata.
For Queenslanders this was a rare chance to see and hear one of the worldís greatest living musicians and musical educators, teamed with a pianist of such tempestuous commitment that she defines the very spirit of con brio.
Altogether a powerful, thrilling and emotionally-satisfying evening of music.