Gagneux/Shchedrin

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COMPOSERS: Gagneux/Shchedrin
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Triptyque; Sotto voce Concerto for cello
PERFORMER: Mstislav Rostropovich (cello); LSO/Seiji Ozawa
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-94570-2 DDD
Rostropovich has inspired an astonishing number of cello works and here are two of the most recent, from 1990-3 and 1994 respectively. Though the rather bizarre sleeve note is anxious to point out the differences between the concertos – even to the extent of mentioning that the composers did not ‘hit it off’ when they met – the two share a hushed, anti-rhetorical atmosphere. The Frenchman’s neat triptych has a lyric centrepiece bordered by two short sections of threadbare microtonality, while the Russian’s languid sprawl is pierced with inventive moments, such as the tenor recorder against cello harmonics.

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The influence of Renaud Gagneux’s teachers is clearly present in this score: he combines elements of Messiaenic spirituality with Dutilleux’s ear for detail and a Stockhausen-like severity. His image of comprehending a conversation in another room merely by the rise and fall of intonation is an apt and intriguing one. The music of veteran Shchedrin, who studied at the Moscow Conservatoire at the same time as Rostropovich, emerges from a very different world, yet the two works, strangely, melt into each other on repeated hearing, even down to the simple rising motifs they share. Rostropovich is a committed but literal interpreter, apt to be unvaried in tone and heavy-handed in his execution. Future performances may bring out subtleties missed here. Helen Wallace