Steven Isserlis is a British cellist. He is distinguished for his diverse repertoire, distinctive sound deployed with his use of gut strings and command of phrasing.
Steven Isserlis performs solo, in chamber concerts, and with orchestra. He is a staunch advocate of lesser-known composers and of greater access to music for younger audiences. Isserlis is committed to authentic performance, and frequently performs with the foremost period instrument orchestras. He has performed Beethoven with fortepianist Robert Levin in Boston and London, and Dvořák's Cello Concerto with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Sir Simon Rattle. He has also published several editions and arrangements, principally for Faber Music, and was an advisor on new editions of Beethoven's Cello Sonatas and Cello Variations, as well as the Cello Concertos of Dvořák and Elgar. He commissioned a new completion ofProkofiev's Cello Concertino from the Udmurt musicologist Vladimir Blok, which was premiered on 11 April 1997 in Cardiff, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Mark Wigglesworth. At the other end of the spectrum, Isserlis has premiered works by composers John Tavener (who wrote The Protecting Veil especially for the cellist), Lowell Liebermann,Carl Vine, David Matthews, John Woolrich, Wolfgang Rihm, Mikhail Pletnev and Thomas Adès.
Isserlis plays the De Munck Stradivarius, on loan from The Nippon Music Foundation. He also part-owns a Montagnana cello from 1740 and a Guadagnini cello of 1745, which he played exclusively from 1979 to 1998 and part-owns with David Waterman, cellist of the Endellion Quartet. Isserlis made his debut directing from the cello in February 2008, with the Irish Chamber Orchestra at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.
He has organized a number of festivals with long-term collaborators such as Joshua Bell, Stephen Hough, Mikhail Pletnev, András Schiff, Denes Varjon, Olli Mustonen and Tabea Zimmermann, and actors Barry Humphries and Simon Callow. He is artistic director of the International Musicians Seminar, Prussia Cove in West Cornwall, where he both performs and teaches.