Elgar/Respighi/Milhaud

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COMPOSERS: Elgar/Respighi/Milhaud
LABELS: Russian Disc
WORKS: Cello Concerto in E minor; Adagio con variazione; Cello Concerto No. 1
PERFORMER: Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)Moscow PO, USSR RSO/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
CATALOGUE NO: RD CD 11 104 AAD
The new label, Russian Disc, is very good news for Rostropovich fans: at least a dozen CDs are promised, drawn (like this one) from live radio broadcasts made before the great cellist left the Soviet Union in 1974. This 1964 account of the Elgar Concerto is especially welcome, as his larger-than-life interpretation of the work is unavailable elsewhere. Speeds are faster than average in all four movements: the rapid bowing in the Scherzo is mightily impressive, and the poignant Adagio loses nothing in effect by being less indulgently phrased than by some cellists. But the close balance does mean that a good deal of roughness in the outer movements is inescapable, from both soloist and orchestra.

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Milhaud’s First Concerto was composed in 1934, the year in which Elgar died, and belongs to a more flippant age. It, too, receives a performance which is bigger on commitment than sophistication. Respighi’s 12-minute set of variations is a little gem of unabashed lyricism, and the throbbing, intense Rostropovich sound suits it perfectly.

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The recorded sound is more than a little primitive throughout, and the playing time rather stingy for a full-price disc. But the CD does, nevertheless, provide a fascinating snapshot from the earlier part of Rostropovich’s distinguished career – and Rozhdestvensky’s – for that matter. Stephen Maddock