Steven Isserlis

Cello

Biography

Acclaimed worldwide for his profound musicianship and technical mastery, British cellist Steven Isserlis enjoys a unique and distinguished career as a soloist, chamber musician, educator, author and broadcaster.

As a concerto soloist he appears with many of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors, including the Berlin Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra Washington, London Philharmonic and Zurich Tonhalle orchestras. He gives recitals every season in major musical centres, and plays with many of the world’s foremost chamber orchestras, including the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and the Australian, Mahler, Norwegian, Scottish, Zurich and St Paul Chamber Orchestras, as well as period-instrument ensembles such as the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Unusually, he also directs chamber orchestras from the cello in classical programmes.

Recent performing highlights include appearances with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at the Salzburg Mozartwoche; the US premiere of Thomas Adès’s Lieux retrouvés with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, following world and UK premieres in Lucerne and at the BBC Proms, and a further performance of the work in Amsterdam with the Britten Sinfonia, all conducted by the composer; Prokofiev’s Concerto Op. 58 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowski, in London and at the Dresden Music Festival; Haydn’s C major Concerto with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Adam Fischer; and Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No.1 on an Australian tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

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Reviews

…a superbly stylish rendering … graceful … exquisite … deeply-felt playing. [Haydn’s C-major Cello Concerto]

The Classical Source

“He can have the listener in perpetual wonder at the ingredients of his art…”

The Australian

“… this is one of those performances where everything hits the spot … [Isserlis] gets the mood exactly right, playing with an appealing blend of warmth and resignation. The flamboyant passages sparkle, and the last movement’s devastating backward glance is a belter. [Elgar, Cello Concerto]”

The Art Desk

More Reviews

“More than once one is struck by how paragraphs and episodes breathe, surge and cadence, rests and silences given potent tension; this is finely articulate cultured playing – ruminant poetry and reflective musicality, aristocratically suspended climaxes, carrying the argument free of ego or ‘produced’ theatre.”

Classical Source October 2018

“… wonderfully innate … never less than scintillating … detailed and immediate … Even among Isserlis’s many fine discs, this one stands out.”

Gramophone Magazine October 2018

“Isserlis is one of the most insightful and intelligent cellists around …”

The Whole Note September 26th 2018

“In it you can hear anguish … defiance and great beauty, all of which was illuminated with immaculate artistry in this performance …”

The Daily Telegraph July 4th 2018

“Though Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1, Opus 107 has much of the terrifying machine about it, cellist Steven Isserlis avoided a hammered or bludgeoning approach, creating tension at the opening in taut insistent rhythms and imaginative exploration of sound.”

Sydney Morning Herald July 2nd 2018

“Isserlis plays this work like a man in a world tipped up on end by madness, clinging with his finger nails to a sense of order … an exhilarating and at times terrifying version of Shostakovich’s masterpiece.”

Canberra Times June 25th 2018

“Playing alone, his incomparable technique, phrasing, expression and sensitivity across all the tempi and dynamics, quite simply, were incredible. There can be no doubt that Isserlis is an inspired – and inspiring – musician …”

Limelight Magazine June 24th 2018

“… very impressive … focussed, inspired and inspiring … We were in the presence of a very great cellist who has all the desirable qualities for this instrument … exemplary.”

Info-Culture Apr 28th 2018

“Isserlis has always been able to make his lyrical playing pulse with emotional heat and so it was here …”

Financial Times Feb 22nd 2018

“… a fine display of musicianship …”

Bachtrack Feb 22nd 2018

“… an exceptionally fine duo … The hall was sold out …supreme accomplishment.”

The Independent Feb 22nd 2018

“… a triumph … the music-making was truly sublime.”

The Evening Standard Feb 22nd 2018

“… a first-rate international star … A dramatic presence onstage … this master cellist commands attention.”

San Francisco Classical Voice Feb 12th 2018

“Isserlis’ opening solo – emphatic groan followed by long heaving sigh – was breathtaking for its depth of despair. This was its tenor from tumultuous opening to devastating close.” [Elgar, Cello Concerto]

The Straits Times Oct 8th 2017

“… absolutely wonderful … this album is worth acquiring whether you’re yet to own a recording of these masterpieces or your collection is already bulging with them. Isserlis’s 1998 recording remains classy stuff, but this has superbly trumped it.” [Haydn, CPE Bach: Cello Concertos CD]

Gramophone Magazine Sep 2017

“This recording is a real tonic. I defy anyone not to smile at Steven Isserlis’s effervescent readings of Haydn’s graceful and urbane cello concertos in C major and in D major. He spins an exquisitely light and agile line, maintaining a delightfully sunny disposition, even in each concerto’s adagio … a CD to treasure. ”

The Observer Sep 2017

“The word that classical music critics most overuse is revelatory … But Wednesday night’s Mostly Mozart Festival performance by the orchestra was indeed a revelation … a riveting performance that displayed Isserlis’s soulfulness … What a night! Bravi!”

EdgeMediaNetwork

“Through his sensitive performance, he impressively expressed the poeticism and lyricism of the work through colour and dynamics on-stage. Isserlis expertly knew how to intertwine the solo line with the orchestra. The cellist is one who devotes himself fully to every individual musical moment and surrenders himself to the music.”

Berner Zeitung May 20th  2017

“Fiery and energised … Isserlis’s artful vibrato and the sheer colourfulness he elicits from his cello, are unparalleled.”

Der Bund May 19th 2017

“A capacity audience was held in thrall … hauntingly beautiful … a constant flow of beautiful sound … stunning virtuosity.”

Eastern Daily Press May 14th 2017

“Vivid drama, expressive phrasing and spontaneity … Steven Isserlis displayed all these qualities … Isserlis gave a soft sheen to the cantabile … and an intense serenity to the slow movement … simply gorgeous.”

The Washington Post April 23rd 2017

“… candid brilliance … marvellous creativity … miraculous spontaneity …”

Gazzetta di Mantova January 21st 2017

“Few musicians can boast an elegance on their instrument equal to that of Steven Isserlis on the cello.”

Amadeus January 18th 2017

“sensitive, emotional … electrifying … spine-tingling … stunning … This was a world class concert”

The Yorkshire Times 

“Impeccable lyricism … superb … the very best of English cello music.”

NZ Herald 

“… this is one of those performances where everything hits the spot … [Isserlis] gets the mood exactly right, playing with an appealing blend of warmth and resignation. The flamboyant passages sparkle, and the last movement’s devastating backward glance is a belter. [Elgar, Cello Concerto] ”

The Art Desk 

“Walton’s concerto … has received a number of fine recordings in recent years and this is up there with the best of them. In terms of sheer virtuosity it might well have never been bettered, especially in the second movement, Allegro appassionato, which I have rarely heard played with such apparent ease. ”

The Elgar Society Journal 

“Steven Isserlis made a fine, fierce recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto with the LSO 18 years ago; this new version, with the Philharmonia and conductor Paavo Järvi, is fiercer still – older, wiser and even more convincing.”

The Guardian 

“… it was a complete and exhilarating evening … a privilege and a pleasure to have been present in the company of a musician who has such a personal and probing way with this timeless music … a celebrated concert. [J.S. Bach, Suites for Solo Cello] ”

The Classical Source 

“This was a performance on the edge: deeply thoughtful and personal, and profoundly human.”

The Classical Source 

“It’s no surprise, perhaps, that Steven Isserlis’s latest reading of the Elgar concerto should be special: this is a long-loved, lived-in interpretation in which every superfluity has been scoured away leaving only an extraordinarily pure line of expression … The scherzo has plenty of attack, the Adagio is almost unbearably poignant while Isserlis’s finale explodes into life with a bristling humour and rhythmic vitality all-too rare.”

The BBC music magazine 

“Simply sublime. ”

Limelight Magazine 

“Isserlis can play anything.”

Cut Common 

“There are many fine cellists, and then there is Steven Isserlis.”

The Australian 

“He can have the listener in perpetual wonder at the ingredients of his art…”

The Australian 

“Isserlis, of course, is a matchless virtuoso, so much so that it might seem redundant to discuss the transcendent way he played Beethoven‘s visionary score; it would be more to the point to note that his Olympian talent connected the audience directly with the mind and heart of Beethoven, in a kind of musical séance. [Beethoven Cello Sonata No.5]”

Cleveland.com 

“It would be pretty hard not to like Steven Isserlis: a superb musician, soloist, chamber player, teacher, author and radio broadcaster, he seems to excel at almost everything he does … there is no other living cellist quite as musical.”

Bachtrack 

“Isserlis…displayed some extraordinarily angelic playing ”

The San Francisco Classical Voice 

“…he painted the meandering melody of the Largo in such magnificently mournful colors…”

The San Francisco Classical Voice 

“I don’t think you will ever hear a more spine-tingling performance. [Beethoven, Cello Sonatas CD]”

Presto Classical 

“The English virtuoso was as powerful on the fleetly fingered perpetual motion passages of the second movement as when summoning grief and resignation on the weighty finale. [Elgar, Cello Concerto]”

Ron Hubbard, Pioneer Press 

“…this was how the music ought to sound.”

Bach Track 

“Isserlis’s playing is in many ways consummate: his technical mastery matched by an obvious love for the work.”

The Australian