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Mstislav Rostropovich Edition
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Symphony-Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in E minor Op. 125: Andante [10:00]; Allegro giusto [16:16]; Andante con moto [9:50]
Nicolai MIASKOVSKY (1882-1950)
Cello Concerto in C minor Op. 66: Lento ma non troppo [10:02]; Allegro vivace [17:13]
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello; Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Kyrill Kondrashin; Recording: 27-12-1972
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Cello Concerto in B minor Op. 104: Allegro [14:48]; Adagio ma non troppo [11:45]; Allegro moderato [12:39]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Cello Concerto in A minor Op. 129: Nicht zu schnell [10:43]; Langsam [3:33]; Sehr lebhaft [8:27]
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello; USSR State Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra, Boris Khaikin (Dvořák); USSR State Symphony Orchestra, Gennady Rozhdestvensky (Schumann); Recording: 23-6-1957 (Dvorak); 30-11-1960 (Schumann)
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Cello Concerto in A minor Op. 33: Allegro non troppo [6:00]; Allegretto con moto [3:50]; Molto allegro [7:59]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major: Moderato [7:10]; Adagio [7:09]; Allegro molto [6:12]
Cello Concerto No. 2 in D major: Allegro moderato [13:32]; Adagio [4:40]; Allegro [4:25]
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello; USSR State Symphony Orchestra, Victor Dubrovsky (Saint-Saens); Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Rudolf Barshai (Haydn); Recording: 14-2-1964 (Saint-Saens), 15-9-1963 (Haydn)
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Variations on a Rococo Theme Op. 33 [17:36]; Pezzo Capriccioso in B minor Op. 62 [6:56]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Minstrel Song for Cello and Orchestra Op. 71 [4:31]; Melody [7:38]
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Concerto Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra – cello and piano reduction [22:03]
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello; Unnamed pianist; USSR State Symphony Orchestra, Gennady Rozhdestvensky (Tchaikovsky); National Symphony Orchestra of the USSR, Nianonov (Glazunov); [Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Yevgeny Svetlanov (Khatchaturian) – claimed in documentation but actually a cello and piano reduction with unnamed pianist]; Recording: 30-11-1960 (1), 13-5-1964 (2), 22-9-1949 (3,4), 17-10-1965 (5)
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Cello Concerto No. 1 Op. 107: Allegretto [5:55]; Moderato [10:20]; Cadenza [4:57]; Allegro con moto [4:29]
Boris TISHCHENKO (b.1939)
Concerto for cello and 17 wind instruments and percussion [22:49]
Cello Concerto: Movement 1 [11:00]; Movement 2 [3:05]; Movement 3 [9:46]
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello; USSR State Symphony Orchestra, Gennady Rozhdestvensky (Shostakovich); Symphony Orchestra, Yevgeny Svetlanov (Tishchenko); USSR State Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra, Gennady Rozhdestvensky (Vlasov); Recording: 10-2-1961 (Shostakovich), 28-11-1968 (Tishchenko), 13-5-1964 (Vlasov)
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Cello Sonata in C major Op. 119: Andante grave [10:08]; Moderato [4:06]; Allegro ma non troppo [7:02]
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Cello Sonata: Movement 1 [7:28]; Movement 2 [10:24]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Russian Song [4:04]
Cello Sonata [17:54]
Humoresque Op. 5 [2:08]
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello; Alexander Dedukhin, piano (1-3, 6-8); Aram Khatchaturian, piano (4-5); Recording: 10-1-1967 (1-3,4); 11-11-1968 (6-8)
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Concertino for Cello and Orchestra in G minor Op. 132: Andante mosso [7:28]; Andante [5:43]; Allegretto [4:10]
Mieczslaw VAINBERG (1919-1996)
Cello Concerto in D minor Op. 43; Movement 1 [12:45]; Movement 2 [16:54]
Lev KNIPPER (1898-1974)
Concerto-Monologue [15:56]
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello; USSR State Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra, Gennady Rozhdestvensky (Prokofiev); USSR State Symphony Orchestra, Gennady Rozhdestvensky (Vainberg, Knipper); Recording: 13-5-1964 (Prokofiev), 25-2-1964 (Vainberg, Knipper)
Edouard LALO (1823-1892)
Cello Concerto in D minor: Prélude (Lento-allegro maestoso) [12:27]; Intermezzo [5:40]; Andante-allegro Vivace [6:25]
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
Cello Concerto: Andante-allegro [3:37]; Lento [6:31]; Allegro marcato [5:17]
Henri SAUGUET (1901-1989)
Melodie Concertante [Cello Concerto in D major] [22:15]
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello; USSR State Symphony Orchestra, Victor Dubrovsky; Recording: 14-2-1964
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Cello Sonata in C major Op. 102 No. 1: Andante-allegro Vivace [7:41]; Adagio-allegro vivace (track 2 and 3) [6:56]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Cello Sonata No 1 in E minor Op.38: Allegro non troppo [11:44]; Allegretto quasi minuetto [5:27]; Allegro [5:24]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Fünf Stücke im Volkston Op. 102: Mit Humor [3:07]; Langsam [3:07]; Nicht schnell, mit viel Ton zu spielen [1:10]; Nicht zu rasch [3:44]; Stark und markiert [2:19]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Apres un ręve [3:18]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Two Movements from The Firebird [3:09]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Ritual Fire Dance [3:04]
Brazilian Dance – Tijuka [2:35]
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello; Alexander Dedukhin, piano; Recording: 7-11-1961 (1-3), 11-12-1960 (4-6), 15-12-1960 (7-15)
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Suite for cello solo No. 2 Op. 80: Declamatio (largo) [3:26]; Fuga (andante) [3:57]; Scherzo (allegro molto) [1:42]; Andante lento [4:37]; Ciaconna [6:07]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Cello Sonata H 125: Allegro ben moderato [8:59]; Adagio ma non troppo [4:52]; Molto allegro agitato [7:22]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Aria [3:44]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Suite for Cello solo No. 5 in C minor BWV 1011: Prelude [6:59]; Allemande [3:11]; Courante [1:32]; Sarabande [3:55]; Gavotte, attacca: Gigue [4:58]
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello; Alexander Dedukhin, piano; Recording: 11-11-1968 (1-9), 15-12-1960 (10-14) under exclusive licence from Gostelradiofund, Russian Federation
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92771 [10 CDs: 63.41 + 62.14 + 61.06 + 58.59 + 72.41 + 63.28 + 63.15 + 62.23 + 63.24 + 66.00]


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Brilliant boxes are coming thick and fast and their Soviet series, released under exclusive licence from Gostelradiofund, continues to attract interest. One should note that there are not unreasonable concerns regarding provenance of these items; though they’re specifically dated no recording locations are given, though they can at least be inferred from the orchestras involved. It would however be in the collector’s interest that these matters are fully dealt with, not least because many of these works exist in multiple performances and Rostropovich’s commercial and live discography is probably wider than any cellist in recorded history.

His Dvořák is a known quantity and this performance under Boris Khaikin doesn’t add materially to what we already know. One’s preference will vary but for me his Talich and Boult performances are the ones to have – narcissist or indulgent conductors tended to bring out the overly rhapsodic in the cellist. The acoustic has a lot of spread and the orchestral winds and brass sound blowsy and saxophonic in old school Soviet style, and they’re not the tidiest ensemble either. Still Rostropovich is very forwardly recorded and we can hear those hushed pianissimos and the powerful intensity and expressive shading of the slow movement. The orchestra is rather dogged in the finale but the soloist bows with delicious lightness and spins his legato with daring elasticity; not too much, fortunately and he summons up real introspection. His view of this concerto was never as anguished as his contemporary Shafran and they do mark an amazing point of departure in performance of this concerto. Paired with this is the Schumann, once more terra cognita. Rostropovich leans on notes and phrases with optimum oratorical effect; some may find the syntax discursive and the line insufficiently tensile, but the results are warmly romanticised and richly poetic and under his frequent collaborator Rozhdestvensky the orchestra is in far sharper and more incisive form. I had a few critical things to say of the conductor in Brilliant’s Oistrakh box – when he’s bad he’s a crude conductor – but here he is a very much more supportive and flexible artist.

A Sonata disc is of value for showing the width of his championship of Russian contemporaries such as Eduard Mirzoyan. This disc includes the Prokofiev Sonata in C major in reasonable sound and is suffused with aloof lyricism. The opening Andante isn’t taken to quickly and he finds the free melodic heart embedded in the Moderato. Whilst the recording isn’t ideally clear enough to catch the strands of the finale we can plainly hear some affecting dynamic contouring and warmly vibrated tone. He has the support here and elsewhere of long-time and excellent partner Alexander Dedukhin though in the Khatchaturian sonata he has the composer with him. This is a two-movement work that opens with a terse adagio but picks up rhythmic steam with march rhythms and an energetic extrovert outlook. The contrasts are assimilated very adroitly here especially in the multi-mood second movement where the lilting melodies are splendidly characterised and the final allegro bursts are roistering and delightful. Mirzoyan’s sonata is sinewy but melancholy and is a work to which the cellist responds with the utmost emotive colour and expression. He unleashes vibrato of almost Brahmsian intensity and the tense Shostakovich-like ending reinforces his identification with a valuable work.

There’s more Prokofiev in the form of his Concertino, once more with Rozhdestvensky. Once more the sound is spatially spread but there is sufficient concentration on the solo instrument to allow one to appreciate the cellist’s soaring declamatory playfulness. His tone becomes lean as a whippet when necessary and his rapt pianissimo and vigorous drive are so closely fused to the work that he seems indivisible from it. More valuable though, because rarer, is Weinberg’s Concerto which has an introspective and keening edge that marks it out as a work of power. The folk lilt and klezmer tints show an inheritance derived from Mahler and Shostakovich and the vivid wind tapestries attest to Weinberg’s powers of orchestration. The lyric inwardness to which he returns is a constant feature, and even in the bustly and vigorous second part, where the Shostakovich feel is explicit in terms of orchestration and rhythmic attaca, we feel the reflectiveness in the beautiful reminiscences after the cadenza. Tinged with melancholy but also a defiant individuality this is an important work and Rostropovich’s championship of it a most worthy undertaking. The third Soviet concerto is Knipper’s weirdly scored Concerto-Monologue. Brass and percussion shadow the cello – in which the soloist’s line can be fractious or lyric – especially in the exchanges between the cello and the very angular percussion in the third section. What emerges from this performance is the nature of the series of crises that erupt throughout this troubled and highly personal statement.

Classical statements are not ignored. The Beethoven is notable for the sheer warmth of his treatment of the adagios and the corresponding trenchancy of the allegro vivaces, whilst the Brahms sonata makes a fruitful contrast with the famed DG Serkin recording of both sonatas. This one, with the much more equable Dedukhin, rather lacks the outsize grandeur of the Serkin but it has qualities of its own, notably a more lateral sense of the argument and a more withdrawn, less overtly heroic, cast. His Schumann is characterised with big gestures. Mit humor is rather muscular but his slow movements have a vocalised warmth in their wonderfully sustained legato. Of the small pieces that make up the remainder of this disc his Fauré is unfortunately over heated and over-vibrated in the Russian manner and comes out sounding nearer Tchaikovsky but it’s good to hear his vigorous Stravinsky. Is the Mele Brazilian Dance still part of his repertory?

We have an affectionate and elegant performance of a staple of his, Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations once again with the loyal and adept Rozhdestvensky. It’s even better perhaps to hear what he does with the lightweight Pezzo Capriccioso which was recorded four years later and is in better sound than the Variations – deftly romantic playing, this. The Glazunov twosome were recorded in 1949 in blowsy sound though the cello was put under the microphone so we can certainly catch his ringing pizzicati in the Melody. A problem performance is the Khachaturian Concerto-Rhapsody, which Brilliant claims derives from a broadcast with Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra and Yevgeny Svetlanov. But it’s not – it’s in the piano reduction form that the cellist popularised and indeed recorded around this time. The pianist obviously escaped us – conceivably it could be the composer though it’s more likely to have been Alexander Dedukhin.

We have a collaboration between Rostropovich and Barshai and his Moscow forces in both Haydn concertos. These will doubtless be better known from his ASMIF recordings but there’s a real pleasure to be taken in the unforced lyric engagement of his playing of the slow movements in both concertos and the supportive orchestra that never descends to the jog trot. Coupled with them is the Saint-Saëns No.1. This gets a very “stretchy” performance a la Schumann with the cellist spinning out the line of the first movement with daring finesse. It’s not perhaps the most aristocratic of ways with this work and those who admire such as Leonard Rose and Pierre Fournier hereabouts will not necessarily take to the playing overmuch.

A companion disc sports the Lalo in an all-French disc (if we allow Honegger as French). The recording is very fierce and unsubtle, something that also applies to the band under Victor Dubrovsky, but we great huge swathes of warmth from the cellist and some freely rhetorical introspection in the finale, with a bold Allegro Vivace ending. Rostropovich recorded the Honegger with Kent Negano for EMI, a recording widely admired. The Dubrovsky-led traversal is much earlier of course, deriving from a broadcast in 1964. They catch the promenade suavity of this cheeky opus and don’t exaggerate its Parisian Jazz inflexions beyond natural bounds with its filmic moments intact. What they can’t quite replicate is the dedicatee Maurice Maréchal’s woody tone and sheer style in his recording, made with the composer conducting in 1943. Rostropovich doesn’t quite get the rhythm right in the opening movement either. To complete the trio of French concertos we have the Melodie Concertante of Sauguet. This was a work closely identified with the cellist and premiered by him; this performance was made a year after the premičre. It’s a peculiarly discursive and rhapsodic work but very cleverly orchestrated.

Naturally we have Shostakovich I, with Rozhdestvensky in 1961. The recording is very shrill and rather hectoring and that can’t act as much of a recommendation, not least in the other live recordings that have emerged over the years – and not to consider the commercial Ormandy and Rozhdestvensky (and a Charles Groves-led performance as well). But this disc is valuable for giving us two more big concerto statements from Soviet composers. The first is Tischenko’s Concerto for cello, wind and percussion – maybe the Knipper was part of a fad. This is a tense work, spare and anxious with the cello seesawing uneasily in front of drunken sounding woodwind. “Air raid siren” cello slithers add a layer of meaning to the work and there’s a desolate sense of eerie remove as the Concerto builds up to its full twenty-three minute length. Victor Vlasov’s Concerto is a different affair. Though it has its moments of toughness and mild abrasion the sweet nostalgic reveries that course throughout are of almost balletic grace – brassy MGM meets Glazunov in part (though this is rather a reductive one and underrates the generosity of Vlasov’s ideas, some of which seem influenced by Khatchaturian. The galumphing dance in the third movement sounds rather satiric but of what it’s not easy to say.

Another disc combines the three B’s – Bach, Bridge and Britten. The Bach is the fifth Cello suite. Rostropovich was very wary of committing these to disc but broadcast performances have circulated and this one, from December 1960, is commanding enough to make one regret anew that he didn’t slip out from under Casals’ and Fournier’s shadows and record his own integral set when he was at his tonal and technical peak. He and Britten famously recorded Bridge’s Sonata and we have it here with the loyal Dedukhin. A real highlight is the tender intimacy of the slow movement, though the freely expressive to-ing and fro-ing of the opening Allegro also draws the ear. Britten is represented by his Suite for solo cello No.2. This is earthily recorded and tends to exaggerate the resinous attacks of the cellist though it certainly does nothing to tame the nasal rasps in the Fuga, which register with considerable force and animation.

Finally we have more canonic Rostropovich. Firstly the Symphony-Concerto and secondly the Miaskovsky Cello Concerto, a work not written for him but one with which he became intimately bound up. Both are with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra under Kyrill Kondrashin and recorded in December 1972. The Prokofiev is notable for the tightly coiled string tone Kondrashin elicits and the forward and penetrating winds. Rostropovich spins his legato skein in the second movement – just listen to 3.00 onwards – before the unleashing of some strident brass and percussive jolts. This is an intense and dramatic performance well worthy to rank beside, say, the Rozhdestvensky that circulated on Revelation and Russian Disc. In the same way as the Oistrakh Brilliant box sported what is claimed to be the premiere of Miaskovsky’s Violin Concerto (which Oistrakh of course recorded commercially several years later) so this one has another ancillary concerto to set alongside the cellist’s 1950s recording with Sargent. The wide wind vibrato is prevalent but so is the cellist’s apt shading of tone once past the most introspective of the opening paragraphs – this is especially true in the slow section where he evinces really complex colours. And note too the way Kondrashin evokes the ghostly swaying of the orchestral violins – something that has never struck me quite as forcibly before as here.

There’s plenty here to get one’s teeth into, not least at Brilliant’s advantageous price bracket, and a variety of works, both big and small, well-known and obscure. As with the Gilels I would say that concerns over provenance will be swept away by the riches to be found in these ten excellently filled but minusculely annotated discs.

Jonathan Woolf





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