ALBUM TITLE: The glory of rostropovich: 80th birthday tribute
WORKS: Works by Boccherini, Vivaldi, Tartini, Schumann, Dvorák, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Messiaen, Brahms, Chopin, Schubert, Prokofiev, etc
PERFORMER: Mstislav Rostropovich (cello); Martha Argerich, Rudolf Serkin (piano); Emerson Quartet; Berlin PO, Boston SO, Israel PO, Leningrad PO, etc
CATALOGUE NO: DG 477 6579
‘Slava’ means glory in Russian, so DG’s title is apt for this cellist who by common consent is one of the seminal musical figures of these two centuries. His having premiered well over 100 new works alone would be enough to sustain this claim, but his discography also includes many peerless renditions of the standard repertoire. This set not only features some of those recordings but also two discs of his conducting. Though the latter may not match his formidable cellistic accomplishments, in the Tchaikovsky Suites he generates tremendous impetus and orchestral clarity. Similarly impressive is Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, coloured by his evident empathy for and perception of the musical language.
Many of these recordings have already achieved hallowed status. For example I cannot imagine a more exciting performance of the Chopin Sonata, sparkling with spontaneity, yet with a searing logic to each phrase that compellingly draws you through to the last note. Similarly in the Brahms sonatas, his combination of intellect, superb voicing, timbral imagination and sheer artistry is intoxicating, nowhere better demonstrated than in the F major Adagio. The disc dedicated to Baroque concertos demonstrates eloquent vocalisation of phrasing, although the orchestral accompaniment is heavy by today’s standards. Nonetheless the melodic line of Boccherini D major Concerto is simply mesmerising.
In both the chamber ensemble works included, he blends impressively. One is never aware of Rostropovich the great cellist, but simply notes he is a participant in a fine performance of Messiaen’s Concert à quatre; similarly, the Schubert String Quintet with the Emerson Quartet is ardent, although occasionally is a little hard-driven.
Obviously no set celebrating Rostropovich’s art could omit his legendary Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations or Dvo?ák’s Cello Concerto with Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. Equally the Shostakovich Second with Ozawa shows extraordinary insight into the musical invention. However my star item from the whole set is the Schumann Cello Concerto with the Leningrad Philharmonic under Rozhdestvensky: here Rostropovich generates a natural impetus while bringing subtle nuance to the melancholic melodic lines. The effect is magnificent – tortuously yearning yet in equal measure divinely beautiful. Joanne Talbot