Haydn, Rostropovich, A.S.M. sounds like a winner to me. And it is. As part
of their fourth issue in the "Great Recordings of the Century" series EMI
have included the 1975 recordings of the two Haydn Cello Concerti which were
then (relatively) new. Number 1 in C had been found in the archives in 1961,
while the D major had been known for years under an attribution to Anton
Kraft, the brilliant cellist in Haydn's own Esterhazy Orchestra until the
discovery of the original score in Haydn's hand in 1954 sorted that out.
Haydn wrote the two works for Kraft and recordings show what confidence the
composer must have had in his soloist.
We can only speculate how the works must have been played in their time.
Written for a virtuoso, that is how Rostropovich chooses to play them with
the cello always prominent without dominating. He plays with supreme skill
but the skill is always subservient to the demands of the music. Even projection,
immaculate fingering in all registers and a cello tone you could die for.
His judgement and control of the level of sound is impeccable - for instance
in the Adagio of the Ist Concerto when one is aware that something is happening
in the overall tutti and it becomes the cello playing an immaculately controlled
long sustained note which becomes louder until one hears it for what it is.
Haydn seemed incapable of writing anything ugly. The spritely opening to
Number 1, a delightful introspective Adagio, and an Allegro Molto which I
noted "taken at a helluva lick"(with magnificently controlled accompaniment
from the A.S.M.) Splendid suitable cadenzas in this first Concerto were by
The D Major Concerto was written in 1783, some 18 years after its predecessor.
Following the traditional three movement format, the opening Allegro Moderato,
longer than its equivalent in Number 1 but less obviously ingratiating ,
it features an (inevitably) challenging cadenza by Rostropovich himself (as
did the last movement). Another of Haydn's short but instantly attractive
slow movements leads to a vigorous Finale with more magic from a happily
integrated ensemble. 'Papa' Haydn would have been happy. Perhaps he is -
up there listening.
The disc was remastered in 2000 and sounds fine. The original studio balance
was excellent and no 'nasties' have appeared in the updating process.
A quibble? I know that the idea is to revive and restore to the market classic
recordings from the archives and retain the contents of the originally issued
LP's. But by contemporary standards the time content of the LP becomes short
measure on a CD. This disc offers only 49'34". That's not a lot even when
it holds the gems on this disc.
One intriguing point. Like the others in the series, the CD shows the cover
illustration from the original LP. Reduced though it is, one can read the
"Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields directed by Iona Brown"
No reference to this appears on the CD. My friend and associate, the well-known
violinist, Mr. S. Holmes would appreciate information on this matter sent
to his Baker Street, London address.
Details of the entire Great Recordings of the Century series may be