Antonin DVORÁK
Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 (1895) [39:10]
Piano Concerto in G minor, Op. 33 (1876) [37:34]
Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)
Frantisek Maxian (piano)
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Vaclav Talich
rec. 1951-1952. mono. ADD
REGIS RRC1368 [76:52]

These are classic recordings of great merit and interest. It is good to welcome them again at bargain price. Talich lends each a fantastic fire even in moments of repose. His determination informs the more energetic episodes. He is an equable and collegiate partner to ‘his’ soloists. His stabbing attack and constantly alert phrasing make each performance shine. The grip never slackens.

The sound, it has to be said, is whiskery, sometimes scrawny and prone to shatter in the piano sound - so be warned. It really doesn’t matter. You have to be ready to be drawn into the drama though and the 25 year old Rostropovich does just that. So does Maxian. Hugo Shirley, in his liner-note several times mentions parallels with Brahms in both works. I would entirely agree. The finale of the Cello Concerto several times reminded me of Brahms Double Concerto with no disfavour to either work. The same movement also shows Talich lending a toweringly powerful musculature to the climaxes. It’s rather like Beecham’s classic Dvorák 8 but with even more ‘grunt’ and there are more than a few examples of this in the Piano Concerto as well.

The Piano Concerto is by no means as much of a dullard as received wisdom might have told you. It’s a work with some crusty drama in the manner of the Brahms First Piano Concerto. Maxian is completely at one with the towering heroic approach and is just as ready for the big bow-wow as for the consolatory and introspective colloquy. His decorated playing at the close of the first movement is a delight and made me think of Rubinstein in the Saint-Saens Second Piano Concerto (RCA-BMG). The Piano Concerto is heard here in the Vilém Kurz edition of 1919.

There we have it: two historic recordings of Dvorák concertos in gloriously vital interpretations – one work still fairly obscure; the other at the apex of the cello concerto repertoire.

Rob Barnett

Two historic recordings of Dvorák concertos in glorious interpretations.