City Recital Hall, Angel Place
13 June, 2015

Charismatic British cello virtuoso Steven Isserlis and Chinese-Canadian pianist Connie Shih delivered a delicious afternoon of Francophilia at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place, with a trio of the Belle Époque’s finest sonatas, plus a salute to French impressionism, albeit reimagined through his unique and considerable gifts, by arguably the most celebrated composer of our generation, Thomas Adès.

This programme of Gallic favourites, the latest offering in Musica Viva’s bumper year of international artists in celebration of the organisation’s 70th anniversary, opened with Saint-Saen’s Cello Sonata No. 1 in C minor. Isserlis has a masterful flexibility of tone, moving from a rich, woody, mellifluous warmth to crisp, reedy, biting attacks. Hand picked by Isserlis himself, Shih is a pianist of rare talent. With his shock of curly white locks, ala Sir Simon, and his passionate, unrestrained physicality, it would be easy for a chamber music partner of Isserlis’ to be overshadowed, but Shih easily kept pace with some impressively committed, yet impeccably controlled playing. Even in the incredibly knotty counterpoint of this Sonata’s third movement, Shih displayed an agile effortlessness while maintaining an excellently judged...