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Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Sinfonia Concertante for Cello and Orchestra, Op 125 (1952) [37:45]
Cello Sonata* (1950) [24:06]
Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra/Kurt Sanderling
Sviatoslav Richter (piano)*
rec. 1954 (Sinfonia Concertante) and 1956 (Sonata)
MONOPOLE MONO022 [61:52]
Experience Classicsonline

The Monopole label appears to specialise in releases of items from the old Melodiya back catalogue. Previous issues have included Shostakovich playing his own works (MONO008), Oistrakh’s Khachaturian concerto but conducted by Gauk (MONO012), Gilels and Oistrakh in Kabalevsky concertos and the Symphony No. 4 (MONO017), Kogan in the Tchaikovsky conducted by Gauk (MONO021) and the redoubtable Julian Sitkovetsky in the Khachaturian and Sibelius concertos where the conductor is Niyazi and Anossov. Their catalogue also offers a 1950 recording (MONO001) of Schubert’s Octet with Oistrakh (violin I), Vladimir Sorkin (clarinet), Pyotr Bondarenko (violin II), Joseph Stidel (bassoon), Mikhail Terian (viola), Jakov Shapiro (French horn), Svyatoslav Knushevitsky (cello) and Joseph Gertovich (double-bass).

In the case of the present disc we have two classic performances of music by Prokofiev from Rostropovich in his prime. It was Richter, in his only appearance as conductor, who led Rostropovich in the first performance of the Sinfonia Concertante.

This would have been a fascinating album, but unfortunately has been rather spoiled by poor production values. There is very little information about the music or the performers other than a track-listing and a series of photographs. Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante is erroneously labelled “Symphony for cello and orchestra”, seemingly confusing it with Britten’s later masterpiece. More worrying still, the sound on this release suffers from over-processing, being muffled and out-of-focus; its previous incarnation on the Multisonic label was altogether more pleasant to listen to. A pity, for it is a tremendous performance, taken at white-heat throughout and transmitting an intensity which Rostropovich’s slightly later studio performance with Sargent did not always match.

Matters improve somewhat in the Cello Sonata, which is dated 1956; the sound is still artificial but somehow this is less troubling than the concertante work.

Overall an interesting coupling, but could have been so much better.

Ewan McCormick


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