Biography

Acclaimed worldwide for his technique and musicianship, British cellist Steven Isserlis enjoys a distinguished career as a soloist, chamber musician and educator.

‘The music world – and music itself – is infinitely richer for the presence of Steven Isserlis.’ Gramophone Magazine

Highlights of recent seasons have included concerto performances with the Berlin Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert, the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Washington National Symphony with Iván Fischer, the Philharmonia Orchestra with Vladimir Ashkenazy, and a European tour with the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées and Philippe Herreweghe; an all-Haydn play-direct project with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra; recitals at London’s Wigmore Hall with Thomas Adès and Olli Mustonen; chamber music concerts at the Salzburg Festival, Carnegie Hall, BBC Proms and Aldeburgh Festival with collaborators including Joshua Bell, Thomas Adès, Jörg Widmann, Emily Beynon, Anthony Marwood and Denes Várjon; recitals in Washington, San Francisco, Vancouver and Milan; an Australian recital tour with Denes Várjon; and a series of concerts specially devised for the 2010 Cheltenham Festival to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Schumann’s birth.

2010/11 includes appearances with The Cleveland Orchestra and Ton Koopman, NHK Symphony and Tadaaki Otaka, the Philharmonia Orchestra and András Schiff, Vienna Symphony and Thomas Dausgaard, Swedish Radio Symphony and Daniel Harding, Washington National Symphony and Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic and Philippe Herreweghe; the world premiere of the surviving fragment of Vaughan Williams’s Cello Concerto in a completion by David Matthews at the BBC Proms; an Italian recital tour with Olli Mustonen; recitals in London and Warsaw with Stephen Hough; a UK tour playing the Brahms Double Concerto with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and Joshua Bell; and chamber music concerts in Amsterdam, Budapest and Frankfurt. In addition he will be Artist in Residence at the Wigmore Hall and will take part in a number of concerts throughout the season as chamber musician and recitalist, as well as leading a series of educational events.

Steven Isserlis takes a strong interest in authentic performance and has played with many of the foremost period instrument orchestras including the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment with Simon Rattle, and Philharmonia Baroque with Nicholas McGegan. In 2010/11 he will tour with the Academy of Ancient Music and Richard Egarr. He is also a keen exponent of contemporary music, and has worked with many composers on new commissions since giving the world premiere of John Tavener’s The Protecting Veil at the BBC Proms in 1989. In 2006 he gave the world première of Wolfgang Rihm’s Cello Concerto at the Salzburg Festival, and at the 2009 Aldeburgh Festival he premiered Thomas Adès’s new work for cello and piano, Lieux retrouvés, together with the composer.

Writing and playing for children is another major interest. Steven Isserlis’s books for children about the lives of the great composers – Why Beethoven Threw the Stew and its sequel, Why Handel Waggled his Wig – are published by Faber and Faber, and both books have been translated into many languages. He has recorded a CD for BIS with Stephen Hough entitled Children’s Cello, and with composer Anne Dudley he has written three musical stories for children which are published by Universal Edition. As an educator, Steven Isserlis gives frequent masterclasses all around the world, and for the past thirteen years he has been Artistic Director of the International Musicians’ Seminar at Prussia Cove in Cornwall.

With an award-winning discography, Steven Isserlis’s recordings reflect his diverse interests in repertoire. His recording of the complete Solo Cello Suites by Bach for Hyperion met with the highest critical acclaim, and was Gramophone magazine’s Instrumental Disc of the Year and Critic’s Choice at the Classical Brits. Other recent releases include an all-Schumann disc for Hyperion with Denes Várjon, and a recording of works for cello and chamber orchestra entitled reVisions, for BIS.

The recipient of many honours, Steven Isserlis was awarded a CBE in 1998 in recognition of his services to music, and in 2000 he received the Schumann Prize of the City of Zwickau.

Steven Isserlis plays the Marquis de Corberon (Nelsova) Stradivarius of 1726, kindly loaned to him by the Royal Academy of Music.