Cellist paves the way with a piece of great Britten

British cellist Steven Isserlis,  Music in the Round', Crucible Stuidio,  January 28 2012
British cellist Steven Isserlis, Music in the Round', Crucible Stuidio, January 28 2012

GLOBALLY-renowned British cellist Steven Isserlis is a stand-out name in Music in the Round’s spring series of Sheffield concerts, all but two of them at the Crucible Studio.

On January 28 he will be playing Britten’s Suite No 3 and partnered by noted Canadian pianist Connie Shih, with whom he regularly collaborates, for Shostakovich’s D minor sonata Op 40, Ravel’s Two Hebrew Melodies and Beethoven’s Third Cello Sonata, Op 69

Stile Antico have the highest reutation among the other visitors, especially in America. A group of 12 young British singers, they will be performing Tudor and Jacobean sacred music at Sheffield Cathedral on March 2.

Two young groups of growing repute also make visits, the all-female Lawson Trio who perform piano trios by Mozart: K564; Debusssy: No 1; Brahms: Op 8 (revised version); and The Long Way Home by David Knotts on February 3. (The trio’s pianist, Annabelle Lawson, is the daughter of a pianist whom some may recall, Peter).

And on February 7, the Wu Quartet (who studied with Peter Cropper), offer Mendelssohn’s String Quartet Op 44 No 1 and Ligeti’s No 1 at a lunchtime concert.

Central to the spring series is a not always predictable Exploring Beethoven weekend in partnership with Sheffield University, which begins on February 17 with the composer’s Op 18 No 6, Op 74 and Op 59 No 2 quartets from the Anglo-Dutch Navarra String Quartet.

Ensemble 360 members reclaim their usual patch thereafter and the following day, February 18, is something of a marathon starting at noon with the ‘Archduke’ piano trio and Duo for viola and cello ‘With Two Eyeglasses’ WoO32.

At 2pm in the Crucible’s Adelphi Room, there is a two-hour, four-way symposium/ discussion with, inevitably, Peter Cropper in one corner and, at 4.30pm, a 40-minute lecture-recital on Beethoven’s Op 96 violin sonata (not played in its entirety) in the company of Tim Horton and Benjamin Nabarro.

Pianists from Sheffield Music Academy perform bagatelles etc by the composer at 6.15pm before Ensemble 360 move in with the Serenade Op 25 for flute, violin and viola, Trio for flute, bassoon and cello WoO 37, Horn Sonata Op 17 and Op 18 No 1 string quartet to end the day.

An early start, 11am, on February 19 finds the Op 95 quartet on offer followed by the Piano Trio Op 70 No 2 and its better-known companion piece, Op 70 No 1 – the ‘Ghost’, bringing the weekend to a close at a concert beginning at 3pm.

Before it are the Cello Sonata Op 102 No 2, Sextet Op 81b for horns and string quartet (81a is the Les Adieux piano sonata), and Variations on La ci darem le mano (Mozart’s Don Giovanni) for oboe, viola and cello WoO 28.

Three other Ensemble 360 concerts in the season begin with one taking in a flute quartet rendering of the concluding Sonata of Bach’s Musical Offering, Lennox Berkeley’s Trio for horn, violin and piano, and the Brahms Piano Quintet on January 25. There is more Bach at lunchtime on January 31, his Viola de Gamba Sonata No 3, plus Schumann’s Three Romances for oboe and piano and work by the now-forgotten August Klughardt (1847-1902), Schilflieder (Reed Songs) Op 28, five fantasy pieces after Lenau poems for oboe, viola and piano.

Yet further Bach on April 5, his Oboe Sonata, better known as a flute sonata (both BWV 1030), which is followed by Janácek’s First String Quartet (Kreutzer Sonata) and Schumann’s Piano Quartet.

Tim Horton returns to Beethoven realms on April 12 with his second foray into the composer’s piano sonata cycle with performances of Op 14 No 1 and No 2, Op 13 – the ‘Pathétique’ – and Op 7. Two folk concerts offer contrasting sounds with the singing, guitar and harp-playing Webb Sisters here on February 4 – a 90-minute session without an interval!

On March 8 Gaelic music will be wafting round Sheffield University’s Octagon Centre with leading exponents Karen Matheson, reckoned by many the finest Gaelic singer around, and pianist/accordionist Donald Shaw being joined by fiddle player Donald Grant and guitarist Anna Massie.

Jazz fans are catered for with a visit from the much-vaunted pianist Gwylim Simcock with another highly-regarded musician Klaus Gesing (saxophones, bass clarinet) on April 13.