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CD: Crotchet AmazonUK AmazonUS

Mstislav Rostropovich - The Complete EMI Recordings
Details at end of review
EMI CLASSICS 2 17597 2 [26 CDs: ca 30 hrs & 2 DVDs]
Experience Classicsonline

This is the second gargantuan box set devoted to a great string player with which I’ve grappled over recent weeks. The other was a stupendous, wrist-crushing fifty-one CD box devoted to many great (but obviously not complete) EMI recordings made by Yehudi Menuhin (see review). And here is the other one, a twenty-six CD and 2 DVD set devoted to the complete EMI recordings of Rostropovich as a cellist - no conductorial waters here. What with the riches of the Oistrakh box set from this source and things are looking good for the collection collector.

This one is a rationalisation of a set previously released and which keeps its title, The Russian Years 1950-74, and occupies discs thirteen to twenty-five. The first twelve discs are more canonic, central recordings. There is a single disc of interviews and two DVDs, already released, of the performances of the Bach suites.

I have listened to all the Russian set and have sampled the first twelve disc of the rest, so let’s start with the records that offer the most terra cognita.

The first two discs are given over to the Bach suites and are an audio analogue to the film of the performances contained on the DVDs. The cellist was notoriously reluctant to record them but their omission from his discography would have been so grave as to make these March 1991 tapings necessary, no matter how unconvinced some may have been by them. The third disc gives us the self-directed ASMIF Haydn recordings and the Bernstein conducted Schumann. A ball-by-ball coverage of these items is not really necessary, and so I won’t need to tell you that the Beethoven Triple is here once again and the Brahms Double - both with Oistrakh - as well as the latter with Perlman. Perhaps it’s best to concentrate on slightly more unfamiliar gems from the first twelve CDs. These would include the Brahms Sonata in F with frequent accompanist, the excellent Alexander Dedyukhin and the little collection of pieces they recorded in April 1957 which included Popper, Debussy and Scriabin’s Piatigorsky arranged Etude No.6 No.11. There’s a fine Strauss sonata with Vasso Devetzi from Paris, July 1974 and the Shostakovich Seven Romances on verses by Alexander Blok with Vishnevskaya as well as violinist Ulf Hoelscher and Devettzi once again. The collection is not all about the blockbusting concertos.

Still if that’s your fancy the well known things are here; Miaskovsky and Prokofiev with Sargent, the Dvořák with Boult and Giulini, the former strongly to be preferred, Dutilleux with Serge Baudo, Lutosławski with the composer conducting, the glorious Bloch Schelomo with Bernstein, Gubaidulina’s intractable (to me) The Canticle of the Sun, Strauss’s Don Quixote with Karajan and there’s still a few more things to entice.

Time though to move onto the Russian set, which will be of more immediate interest to those who have yet fully to slake their thirst given Rostropovich’s wide proselytising on behalf of these scores. In the first disc there’s the Allegro - only - of the Beethoven Triple Concerto with Oistrakh and Richter and Kondrashin. This torso serves as an entrée to a strong Schumann and the Variations on a Rococo Theme but these are less exciting than hearing him in Honegger’s concerto - a work launched by Maurice Maréchal, still its leading exponent on record. Rostropovich plays it beautifully but not as idiomatically as the Frenchman and the USSR State is on slightly woolly form. Disc 14 also contains a Don Quixote with Kondrashin which I prefer to the Karajan for its more sympathetic characterisation. There’s a 1964 Miaskovsky concerto with Svetlanov, very similar to the Sargent but wonderful to hear and a world première of Glazunov’s Concerto Ballata, a free-wheeling twenty one minutes, if a touch overlong.

Disc sixteen gives us something weird, a composite performance of Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto; the first movement with Israel Gusman was recorded in December 1972 whilst the second and third movements were recorded way back in March 1964 with Rozhdestvensky. But it also disgorges what’s claimed to be the world première, with Richter, of the Prokofiev Cello Sonata in C from March 1950. Both Shostakovich concertos are here - No.1 with Rozhdestvensky and No.2 with Svetlanov and they occupy a single disc. Not inappropriately Britten follows - the first two Cello suites and the World premiere of the Cello Symphony - febrile, trenchant and a must-have. The fact that he didn’t record the Third Suite was, the cellist later admitted, a ‘big mistake’.

Disc 19 goes to the ever fascinating Boris Tchaikovsky. The cellist brings wonderful control and expression to the Solo Suite, not least its Aria. He even copes manfully with the funky instrumentation of the Partita - cello, piano, harpsichord, electric guitar and percussion, and one of the many works dedicated to him in this set. Spooky, bizarre and fascinating. The Cello Concerto owes something to Shostakovich in its sinewy and burlesque lines but is an individual and powerful work. Tischenko’s Concerto is also strangely distributed, in his case for cello, 17 wind instruments, percussion and organ and the work encompasses starkness, melodrama and terse expression. The Aram Khachaturian Concerto-Rhapsody is in a cello and piano version. But Yuzo Toyama’s Concerto is a six movement one - strong Japanese pizzicati and some lyric-melancholic moments too.

Lopes-Graça’s Concerto da camera will have escaped all but the most assiduous of listeners I suspect but its urgent and nervous disposition is well worth seeking out, even if that description doesn’t sound too enticing. I suppose if you want unusual instrumentation you’d go straight to Knipper’s Concerto-Monologue for cello, seven brass instruments and two kettledrums - brilliant brass colloquy and mood shifts in this superb work. Yearning expression and quicksilver dynamism marks out Weinberg’s Concerto, cast in broadly Shostakovich-like colouring. Talking of whom he’s the pianist in the undated performance of his own Op.40 sonata that heads disc 22. It’s followed by a small roster of composer-executants. Kabalevsky accompanies Rostropovich in his B flat sonata in a world premiere performance made before the work’s final revision and publication. Then Karen Khachaturian appears, to lend his support in his own Sonata. This is a selection so self-recommending it hardly needs stating.

The last three discs offer more compact rewards with a series of glorious miniatures. There’s a slow and glorious Après un rêve, an evocative Milhaud Saudades do Brasil and a Popper Dance of the Elves to contrast with the version from Abbey Road in 1957. There are bigger things here as well - the Chopin sonata and Miaskovsky Second Sonata, both with the tremendous and underrated Dedyukhin. I’m afraid that no one on God’s green earth will supplant my love of the latter performance - no one will ever play it better. We can also feast on Shaporin’s lovely, melancholic Five Pieces Op.28 even as we ponder Ustvolskaya’s Grand Duet (Alexei Lubimov) and Schnittke’s Second Sonata - important works and as with so many dedicated to the Great Instigator himself.

New music, canonic repertory, multifaceted; a force - spiritual, musical, human - for good, Rostropovich is here captured in some of his many guises. A review such as this can only hope to suggest a small fraction of the rewards to be encountered, but it should also alert us all to the debt owed this indefatigable and remarkable man, whose playing so graced and profoundly illuminated the second half of the twentieth century and beyond.

Jonathan Woolf

CD 1 [68:59]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Six Suites (Sonatas) for Cello BWV1007-12
Suite No.1 in G major, BWV1007 [16:10]
Suite No.4 in E flat, BWV1010 [25:26]
Suite No.5 in C minor, BWV1011 [26:54]
CD 2 [78:55]
Suite No.2 in D minor, BWV1008 [21:15]
Suite No.3 in C major, BWV1009 [23:36]
Suite No.6 in D major, BWV1012 [33:31]
Recorded 1991
CD 3 [75:13]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No. 1 in C Major, Hob. VIIb/1 (Cadenzas: Benjamin Britten) [24:46]
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No. 2 in D Major, Hob. VIIb:2 (Cadenzas: Mstislav Rostropovich) [24:35]
Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Mstislav Rostropovich, recorded 1975
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 129 [25:31]
Orchestre National de France/Leonard Bernstein, recorded 1976
CD 4 [61:01]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C Major, Op. 56 [36:32]
David Oistrakh (violin), Sviatoslav Richter (piano) Berliner Philharmonic/Herbert von Karajan, recorded 1969
12 Variations on Mozart's 'Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen' from 'Die Zauberflöte' Op. 66 [10:34]
Vasso Devetzi (piano) recorded 1974
12 Variations for Cello and Piano on "See the Conquering Hero Comes" from Handel's "Judas Maccabaeus" [13:42]
Vasso Devetzi (piano) recorded 1974
CD 5 [62:43]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Double Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor, Op. 102 [33:28]
David Oistrakh (violin)/Cleveland Orchestra/George Szell, recorded 1969
Cello Sonata No. 2 in F Op. 99 [29:03]
Alexander Dedyukin (piano), recorded 1957
CD 6 [76:36]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra Op. 102 [33:16]
Itzak Perlman (violin), Concertgebouw Orchestra/Bernard Haitink, recorded 1979
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Cello Concerto in B minor B191 Op. 104 [43:07]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Carlo Maria Giulini, recorded 1977 
CD 7 [72:25]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Cello Concerto in B minor B191 Op. 104 [39:01]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Adrian Boult, recorded 1957 
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor Op. 33 [18:30]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Malcolm Sargent, recorded 1956
DAVID POPPER (1843-1913)
Elfin Dance Op 39 [2:34]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Minstrels (Preludes Book I No. 12) [3:01]
Suite bergamasque -Clair de lune [4:57]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Etude Op.8 No.11 arranged Piatigorsky [4:01]
Alexander Dedyukin (piano), recorded 1957
CD 8 [69:44]
Richard STRAUSS (1864 - 1949)
Don Quixote - fantastic variations for cello, viola and orchestra Op.35 [44:03]
Berliner Philharmonic Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan, recorded 1975
Cello Sonata in F major, Op.6 [25:41]
Vasso Devetzi (piano) recorded 1974
CD 9 [73:29]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1893-1953)
Sinfonia Concertante for Cello and Orchestra in E minor Op. 125 [38:26]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/ Malcolm Sargent, recorded 1957
Nikolai MIASKOVSKY (1881-1950)
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in C minor Op. 66 [28:01]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Malcolm Sargent, recorded 1956
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Vocalise Op. 34 No. 14 [6:52]
Alexander Dedyukin (piano), recorded 1957
CD 10 [71:57]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor Op. 33 [19:13]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Carlo Maria Giulini, recorded 1977
Henri DUTILLEUX (b. 1916)
Cello Concerto (Tout un monde lointain) [28:58]
Orchestre de Paris/Serge Baudo, recorded 1974
Witold LUTOSŁAWSKI (1913-1994)
Cello Concerto [23:24]
Orchestre de Paris/Witold Lutoslawski, recorded 1974
CD 11 [68:01]
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
Schelemo - Hebrew Rhapsody [22:48]
Orchestre National de France/Leonard Bernstein, recorded 1976
Sofia GUBAIDULINA (b. 1931)
The Canticle of the Sun [45:11]
London Voices and instrumental soloists/Ryusuke Numajiri, recorded 1999
CD 12 [69:27]
Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)
Concerto for Three [16:08]
Gidon Kremer (violin); Yuri Bashmet (viola) Moscow Soloists, recorded 1995
String Trio [25:24]
Gidon Kremer (violin), Yuri Bashmet (viola) recorded 1995
Minuet [2:48]
Gidon Kremer (violin), Yuri Bashmet (viola) recorded 1995
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Seven Romances on Verses by Alexander Blok Op. 127 [24:55]
Galina Vishnevskaya (soprano), Ulf Hoelscher (violin), Vasso Devetzi (piano) recorded 1974
The Russian Years 1950-74
CD 13 [58:28]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C Major, Op. 56 - Allegro only [17:19]
David Oistrakh (violin), Sviatoslav Richter (piano) Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, recorded 1970
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Cello Concerto in A minor Op. 129 [22:57]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, recorded 1960
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Variations on a Rococo Theme in A major Op.33 [17:45]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, recorded 1960
CD 14 [76:51]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Bachianas brasileiras No. 1 [8:33]
Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Adagio con variazioni [10:56]
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Kyrill Kondrashin, recorded details unknown
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra H72 [15:32]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Victor Dubrovsky, recorded 1964
Richard STRAUSS (1864 - 1949)
Don Quixote - fantastic variations for cello, viola and orchestra Op.35 [46:15]
L Dvoskin (viola) Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Kyrill Kondrashin, recorded 1964
CD 15 [57:13]
Sergei TANEYEV (1856-1915)
Canzona (arr. composer from clarinet and strings) [7:57]
Alexander Dedyukin (piano)
Nikolai MIASKOVSKY (1881-1950)
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in C minor Op. 66 [28:00]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Evgeni Svetlanov, recorded 1964
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Concerto ballata Op. 108 [21:02]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Evgeni Svetlanov, recorded 1964
CD 16 [75:44]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Sonata for Cello and Piano Op. 119 [22:32]
Sviatoslav Richter (piano), recorded 1950
Symphony-Concerto for Cello and Orchestra Op. 125 [35:33]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Israel Guzman [mvt 1] and Gennadi Rozhdestvensky [mvts 2 and 3], recorded 1972 and 1964 (composite recording)
Concertino for Cello and Orchestra Op. 132 orchestrated Kabalevsky [17:26]
Moscow Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, recorded 1964
CD 17 [59:05]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat Op. 107 [25:55]
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, recorded 1961
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No. 2 in G Op. 126 [33:05]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Evgeni Svetlanov, recorded 1967
CD 18 [74:55]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Suite for Cello No.1 Op. 72 [22:13]
Suite for Cello No. 2 Op. 80 [20:37]
Symphony for Cello and Orchestra Op. 68 [32:33]
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Benjamin Britten, recorded 1964 (world premiere)
CD 19 [71:51]
Boris TCHAIKOVSKY (1925-1996)
Suite for Solo Cello in D minor [12:33]
Partita for Cello, Piano, Harpsichord, Electric Guitar and Percussion [24:27]
Alexander Dedyukhin, Boris Chaykovsky, Mssrs Khovov, Malichko, Godin, recorded 1967 (world premiere)
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra [34:57]
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Kyrill Kondrashin, recorded 1966 (world premiere)
CD 20 [67:58]
Boris TISCHENKO (b.1939)
Concerto for Cello, 17 Wind Instruments, Percussion and Organ Op. 23 [26:20]
Unnamed Orchestra/Igor Blazhkov, recorded 1966
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Concerto-Rhapsody - for cello and piano [22:04]
Aza Amintayeva (piano) recorded 1964
Yuzo TOYAMA (b.1931)
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra [19:21]
Moscow Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra, Yuzo Toyama, recorded1967 (world premiere)
CD 21 [69:09]
Fernando LOPES-GRACA (1906-1994)
Concerto da camera [23:02]
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Kyrill Kondrashin, recorded 1967 (world premiere)
Lev KNIPPER (1898-1974)
Concerto-Monologue for Cello, Seven Brass Instruments and Two Kettledums (1962) [16:06]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, recorded 1964 (world premiere)
Miecyslaw WEINBERG (1919-1996)
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra Op. 43 [29:50]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, recorded 1964 (world premiere)
CD 22 [70:34]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Sonata for Cello and Piano in D minor Op 40 [25:35]
Dmitri Shostakovich (piano), undated
Dmitri KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)
Sonata for Cello and Piano in B flat Op. 71 [26:35]
Dmitri Kabalevsky (piano), recorded 1962 (world premiere of original version)
Karen KHACHATURIAN (b.1920)
Sonata for Cello and Piano [18:10]
Karen Khachaturian (piano), recorded 1967 (world premiere)
CD 23 [75:39]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Russian Song (Parasha's Aria from 'Mavra') [4:03]
Le Baiser de la fée - Pas de deux; Adagio [4:14] Variation and Coda [3:18]
Alexander Dedyukin (piano), recorded 1960
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
12 Etudes Op. 8 - No. 11 in B flat minor (transcribed Piatigorsky) [4:04]
Vladimir Yampolsky (piano)
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Saudades do Brasil Op. 67 - Tijuca (transcribed Rostropovich) [2:31]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
El amor brujo - Ritual Fire Dance (transcribed Piatigorsky) [3:00]
Alexander Dedyukin (piano), recorded 1960
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Silent woods B173 (Op. 68 No. 5) [5:20]
Richard STRAUSS (1864 - 1949)
Stimmungsbilder Op. 9 - II. An einsamer Quelle [3:31]
Vladimir Yampolsky (piano)
Christian SINDING (1856-1941)
Suite for Violin and Orchestra in A minor Op. 10 (Suite im alten Stil) - presto [1:50]
Gabriel FAURE (1845-1924)
3 Songs Op. 7 - I. Après un rêve (transcribed Casals) [3:34]
Alexander Dedyukin (piano), recorded 1960
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Suite bergamasque - Clair de lune (transcribed Roelens) [4:53]
Nocturne et Scherzo [5;27]
Alexander Dedyukin (piano), recorded 1968
Yuri SHAPORIN (1889-1966)
Romance: 'I see you' (transcribed Kubatsky) [3:12]
David POPPER (1843-1913)
Dance of the Elves Op. 39 [2:33]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Impromptu No. 3 in G flat D899 (transcribed Heifetz/Rostropovich) [4:57]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Adagio (from 'Cinderella') Op. 97b (transcibed Prokofiev) [5:54]
Alexander Dedyukin (piano)
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Cinderella Op. 87 - Waltz-Coda (transcribed Rostropovich) [2:39]
March from 'The Love for Three Oranges' (transcribed Rostropovich) [1:42]
Alexei Zybtsev (piano)
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Sonata for Violin and Continuo in D HWV 371 - Larghetto [3:11]
Yuri SHAPORIN (1889-1966) 
Elegy [2:47]
Vladimir Yampolsky (piano)
5 Pieces Op. 25 - Scherzo [1:46]
Aza Amintayeva (piano)
CD 24 [74:39]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor Op. 65 [27:56]
Introduction and Polonaise Op. 3 [9:06]
Alexander Dedyukin (piano)
Nikolai MIASKOVSKY (1881-1950)
Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 2 in A minor Op. 81 [19:51]
Alexander Dedyukin (piano), recorded 1967
Yuri SHAPORIN (1889-1966)
Five Pieces Op. 25 [17:08]
CD 25 [75:54]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Le Grand Tango [9:32]
Igor Uriash (piano) recorded 1996
Galina USTVOLSKAYA (1919-2006)
Grand Duet (1959) [23:36]
Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)
Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 2 [16:33]
Epilogue for Cello, Piano and Tape - from the ballet Peer Gynt [25:47]
Igor Uriash (piano) recorded 1996
CD 26 [57:18]
Rostropovich Interviews; The Life of Rostropovich, in his own words; Mstislav Rostropovich interviewed by Jon Tolansky
DVD 1 and 2
Bach: 6 Suites (Sonatas) for Cello BWV1007-12


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