Sunday, February 11, 2018

Isserlis with the PBO

This weekend the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, conducted by Music Director Nicholas McGegan above, has been playing a "Harmonic Convergence" program around the Bay Area that focused mostly on Mozart and Haydn. Last week I heard the New Century Orchestra play Mozart's Symphony #29 which he composed at age 18 and on Friday at Herbst Theatre it was the Symphony #17 which Wolfgang wrote at age 16. Though they were both charming, they were also inconsequential, which started a guessing game in my brain. Which symphony did Mozart break through with an adult masterpiece? Maybe the #31 "Paris" which he wrote when he was 22, but everyone has their preferences.

This was followed by a piece of real consequence, Haydn's Cello Concerto #2 in D Major, played by the British cellist Steven Isserlis above in an enormously appealing performance. This was the third time I have seen Isserlis perform with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, in 2012 playing Schumann and in 2014 CPE Bach & Boccherini. He was great on both of those occasions but the Haydn on Saturday was my favorite performance so far, partly because the music was so familiar and yet it sounded new and freshly improvised.

He made lots of funny, expressive faces while playing, so I tended to concentrate on his fingers and the amazing sounds he was pulling out of his cello. I didn't stay for the second half of the program because anything afterwards was bound to be a disappointment, and in fact that is what my host Stephen Smoliar confirmed in his account at The Rehearsal Studio.

No comments: