Mstislav Rostropovich has inspired a veritable treasure-trove
of compositions for cello. This excellent
disc presents two pieces by two vital but very different twentieth-century
composers: Henri Dutilleux and Witold Lutosławski.
Henri Dutilleux is the author of a small but highly
concentrated corpus of works. The idea of a Cello Concerto was originally
suggested by Igor Markevitch in about 1960. Composition actually started
late in the ’sixties, when the commission officially came from Rostropovich.
Each of the concerto's five movements is headed by a quotation from
Baudelaire. It was premiered in July 1970 by the artists on this recording.
Dutilleux has stated that the inspiration came from
'Un hémisphère dans une chevelure'. Each of the five movements
has its own title: Enigme (Enigma); Regard (Gaze); Houles (Surges);
Miroirs (Mirrors); Hymne (Hymn). Each is prefaced by a short quote which
helps to suggest a mood. The actual title of the piece, 'Tout un monde
lointain .' ('A whole distant world .') comes from the second stanza
of the poem which 'generated' the central third movement.
The piece brings out Rostropovich's greatest qualities:
the opening cadenza his lyrical side; the second movement his beautiful
high register; the third movement his unparalleled virtuosity. Neither
does he disappoint. Along with the enthusiastic and often sensuous support
of the Orchestre de Paris under Baudo, there is a sense of discovery
and responsibility here. The dynamic fifth movement (which recalls ideas
from the previous four) suffers from some loss of orchestral detail
because of occasional muffling of textures, but this is hardly enough
to withhold a recommendation. In contrast, Boris Pergamenschikov with
the BBC Philharmonic under Yan Pascal Tortelier on Chandos (CHAN9565)
sits firmly on the surface, technically expert but no more. Pergamenschikov
cannot draw the listener into Dutilleux's personal world like the ever-hypnotic
Rostropovich can, and the complexities of the score coupled with a recording
schedule that meant that the entire disc was recorded in two days (including
'Métaboles' and 'Mystère de l'instant') means that the
whole has the aura of a run-through.
Rostropovich's coupling is inspired. Lutosławski's
Cello Concerto dates from the same period. It was commissioned by the
Royal Philharmonic Society and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and
first performed at the Royal Festival Hall on October 14th, 1970, played
by Rostropovich accompanied by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
under Edward Downes. Rostropovich captures the work's often capricious
and elusive nature perfectly. The opening cadenza is spell-binding (it
is nearly four minutes before the orchestra enters). Rostropovich finds
every opportunity for lyricism (and not only in the third part, 'Cantilena').
The orchestra revels in Lutosławski's
compositional technique of controlled aleatorism (watching the conductor
must be akin to watching a musical traffic warden). The meeting of the
talents of Lutosławski and Rostropovich is a fortuitous one which
must be heard.
This is an invaluable release.