here, of some remarkable performances.
Black and white Slava et al for the
Shostakovich, a BBC production directed
by Walter Todds. A studio performance,
applause nevertheless greets Rostropovich,
who plays on a rostrum set off from
the rest of the orchestra at considerable
distance (as seems to have been the
norm for these events). The sound contains
some congestion as far as the orchestra
is concerned, but not enough to seriously
detract from an extraordinary document.
The horn player (Barry Tuckwell, no
less) is superb (the way the solo instruments
are superimposed for the exposed duet
passage is both imaginative and effective).
The power of the first movement comes
from the rock-solid rhythm that Rostropovich
and Groves exhibit. No less impressive
are the sudden extreme dynamic contrasts
with which Rostropovich peppers the
line and the singing intensity of the
Rostropovich is at
his most expressive in the Moderato
(which includes a rare split from Tuckwell!)
– the strings of the LSO match this
expressivity. A passage of cello harmonics
and celesta with ghostly, non-expressive
strings creates a most disturbing effect.
The five-minute cadenza,
which makes up the third movement, is
absolutely hypnotic in Rostropovich’s
hands – the virtuosity towards the end
simply defies belief. If Groves perhaps
does not maintain the tension created
by his soloist in this cadenza he does
nevertheless manage to set up a fair
rhythmic momentum. The close-up of Rostropovich’s
scalic work at the end of the work is
a chance to eavesdrop on the privileged
world of the virtuoso.
concertante has quite a reputation
amongst cellists. It requires the utmost
stamina from the brave protagonist.
Rostropovich (in slightly faded colour
this time) had a hand in the reworking
of the E minor Concerto into the present
score, so there is a real element of
authenticity here. Rostropovich’s first
recording of it in the West was with
Malcolm Sargent and the RPO (HMV ALP1640)
– he tackled it later with Ozawa on
Erato, and there was a Revelation CD
of a 1964 account of the score with
the USSR State Symphony Orchestra under
Rozhdestvensky. Okko Kamu, looking alarmingly
young at the time, conducts the spikier
passages mechanistically. The miracle
of this performance is that despite
its relentless tread, a Russian-perfumed
lyricism informs the whole. There is
another gripping cadenza in the second
movement (allegro giusto), which movement
also includes some moments that could
easily come straight out of Cinderella
(1945). Faster passages are absolutely
staggering in effect.
The Andante con moto
initial section of the finale begins
with one of those long-breathed lines
Rostropovich is so good at. I also love
the way that when there is an interchange
between soloist and violins, Rostropovich
turns round in his chair and stares
as if to say, ‘Now its your turn!’.
The virtuosity of the end is just unbelievable.
Cello is swapped for
piano stool in the ‘bonus’ item – Mussorgsky’s
Songs and Dances of Death. Interestingly,
Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya have recorded
this work together, coupled with Prokofiev’s
Five Poems, Op. 27 and some Tchaikovsky
songs on Philips 853134AY. Rostropovich
accompanies by memory, his carefully
textbook hand position belying the range
of sonority he achieves (try the ominous
octaves of the ‘Lullaby’). Vishnevskaya’s
characterisation is excellent. The third
movement is the bleakest of Trepaks;
the finale (‘The Field Marshal’) includes
dramatic sweeping gestures from Vishnevskaya.
In fact, she is positively hypnotic
– this is a marvellous ‘extra’, one
to be treasured.
There are informed
notes by Michael Jameson for this product
– but alas not for the Mussorgsky. Neither
do there appear to be any subtitles
– the texts with translations can be
found at http://www.ludwigvanweb.com/navigation/1,1270,6-1-cd-013491329826,00.html
(simply click on ‘View Booklet’ and
then click on page 10).
In all, then, a document
to be snapped up, and not just by fans
of the cello.