Dvorak, Saint-Saens: Cello Concertos

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak,Saint-Saens
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorak, Saint-Saens
WORKS: Cello Concertos
PERFORMER: Mstislav Rostropovich (cello); London PO/Carlo Maria Giulini
CATALOGUE NO: 358 2319
If there was ever any need to prove that instrumental music also has a visual dimension, this would do it. These performances were filmed in London’s Henry Wood Hall in 1977, to accompany EMI’s sound recording of the two concertos.

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The film comes up so fresh and vivid, though, that it could have been made yesterday, with first-rate sound by EMI’s Suvi Raj Grubb.

The original recording has never been especially well regarded, the Dvo?ák in particular. Giulini can seem too measured and magisterial, dwelling on beautiful passages rather than giving the performance impetus and shape. Likewise, Rostropovich’s reading is cooler and more introspective than the great 1960s Karajan version, or even his original 1950s recordings. On film, though, comparisons seem less important, so compelling is the vision of the performer himself, so thoroughly inhabiting the work that everything visual – his bowing, his fingering, his very expression – illuminates and involves us in his understanding and love of it. Giulini’s austere intensity also becomes more involving, and the response of the excellent LPO

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players. The genial but much slighter Saint-Saëns is taken just as seriously, with attractive results. Happily there’s more Rostropovich on film, but this is something of a gem. Michael Scott Rohan