There is no composer to whom I feel closer than to Schumann. He has been a beloved friend since I was a child; I remain as fascinated today as I was then by his unique blend of poetry, ecstatic strength and confessional intimacy.' Steven Isserlis's own words give the background to this fascinating disc.
Schumann's affection for the cello ran deep. It was an instrument he had played in his youth, and considered taking up again when, at the age of twenty-two, an accident to his hand forced him to relinquish his dream of being a virtuoso pianist. 'I want to take up the violoncello again (one needs only the left hand for this) and it will be very useful to me in composing symphonies', he wrote to his mother. The sound of the cello played without the right hand would have been somewhat minimalist; but his love for the instrument is clearly demonstrated by the cello parts in all four of his symphonies, as well as in the concertos for piano and violin, and of course throughout his chamber music. As the great musicologist Donald Francis Tovey put it: 'The qualities of the violoncello are exactly those of the beloved dreamer whom we know as Schumann.'