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Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Cello Concerto No 2 in D major, G. 479 (early 1760s) [16:31]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Cello Concerto in C major, RV398 [8:05]
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Cello Concerto in A major (c. 1740) [14:39]
Cello Concerto in G major, RV413 [10:52]
Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)
Collegium Musicum Zürich/Paul Sacher
rec. September 1977, Kleiner Tonhallesaal des Kongresshauses, Zurich
Presto CD
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 429098-2 [51:03]

In September 1977 Rostropovich recorded this quartet of concertos with Paul Sacher directing Collegium Musicum Zurich and it reappears now in Presto’s digitally remastered release complete with its ‘Galleria’ CD artwork and notes by Uwe Kraemer.

Given the vastness of his discography this Baroque-era undertaking might seem small beer, but it serves to show the alchemical properties of a great artist when exploring music seemingly stylistically at variance with his own expressive intensity. What emerges time and again is that technique and tonal breadth are alike put to the service of small-scale movements. Rostropovich’s glamour and his alluring, charismatic playing never submerges the music in an excess of weight or gesture. No one would claim that he here took on elements of historical performance practice, but he clearly scaled his playing down to match Sacher’s chamber ensemble and the necessary dictates of the music.

There’s a lightness to his articulation in the Boccherini which, allied to the clarity of his fast passagework, vests it with a liveliness and his cantabile phraseology in the central movement – with appropriately terraced dynamics – ensures genuine expression without any suggestion of romantic overload. The virtuoso flourishes of the finale match the music’s own aspirations. The cadenzas incidentally are Rostropovich’s own. There are two Vivaldi concertos. The C major is notable for the beauty of its central Largo and the outer movement’s ritorrnelli show it off perfectly. The companion G major is similarly constructed, with a rapt slow movement surrounded by two Allegros but here the temperature in those outer movements is, if anything, even higher, the solo and answering orchestral passages full of shadowing vitality.

Tartini is by no means outclassed, even in this company. His concerto dates from the early 1760s, it’s thought, and its elegance and propulsion in the two Allegros are splendidly realised by soloist and conductor. The slow movement offers the most expressive depth of any music in the disc, and it is here vested with an aura of tragic songfulness so precise, so concentrated, that one has the impression of time standing still.

Though it was recorded nearly 45 years ago, this disc’s qualities are undimmed. It captures Rostropovich in eloquent form in an appealing quartet of Baroque concertos.

Jonathan Woolf

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