Steven Isserlis birthday concert, Wigmore Hall, London

Reviewed by Michael Church

With his wild locks and impish grin, Steven Isserlis always came across as a perennial infant, until his magisterial recordings of Bach's Cello Suites revealed the wisdom of a sage. Yet here he is, celebrating his 50th, so he's still a relative child after all. Sweet that he doesn't hog the stage: that's for the musicians with whom he's played such distinguished chamber music over the years.

First at the piano is the house manager, who leads us all in "Happy Birthday to You", after which the fun begins. Andras Schiff announces that while Isserlis's birthday is actually later in the week, Beethoven's is today, whereupon he plays the shortest Bagatelle Beethoven ever wrote, all 13 seconds of it – twice, so we get the point. But his main business is Bach's Italian Concerto, which he delivers with such force that the Steinway sounds positively plummy.

Next up are tenor Mark Padmore and soprano Dame Felicity Lott, to sing two Haydn songs. These lean on piano writing as deep as that of his late sonatas, but Schiff is a slightly unyielding accompanist. Then they sing some Dvorak, after which the bearded and grizzled Radu Lupu walks on like an ancient holy man. He leans back, closes his eyes, stretches out his arms, and Schumann's Arabeske in C flows out as though of its own volition. Then Schumann's Kinderszenen plays itself, with Lupu deep in a dream. It's wonderfully singing and idiosyncratic, and we follow where the fantasy leads. The instrument now seems quite different from the one Schiff has just played: this is the magic that has made Lupu a legend. How does he do it? God alone knows.

What's fascinating is to see how he's revered by the other musicians: Schiff sneaks back in to listen from behind a potted plant.

After the interval, Joshua Bell, accompanied by the pianist Jeremy Denk, delivers Janacek's mercurial Violin Sonata – Bell at his perfect best – before Padmore and Lott return with some Fauré. Then comes something extraordinary: Schiff and Lupu, who have never duetted in public before, give us Schubert's sublime Fantaisie in F minor.

How will head (Schiff) and heart (Lupu) meld? Since Lupu takes the singing upper part, the answer is, magnificently. After a bear-hug from Lupu, Schiff changes places with him for an encore: a calmer, more equable piece, in the playing of which Lupu's benign spirit seems to have entered his soul too.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen