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Decca Phase 4
Serge PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Sinfonia concertante in E minor, Op. 125 (1952)
Nikolai MIASKOVSKY (1881-1950)
Cello Concerto in C minor, Op. 66 (1944) [28:01]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14 (1915, arr. cello
and piano) [6:52]
Rostropovich (cello); Alexander Dedyukhin (piano)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir
rec. Abbey Road, London 15 April 1957 (P), 5
March 1956 (M), 27 April 1957 (mono)
RECORDINGS OF THE CENTURY 3800132 [73:29]
all the recent EMI GROCs, this is surely one of the greatest,
if not the greatest. Back in 2004 I reviewed an EMI
Classic Archive DVD of Rostropovich in the Prokofiev,
that time accompanied by Okko Kamu, waxing lyrical over its
merits. The present performance, if anything, is even greater.
Sargent accompanies well-nigh perfectly, and the standard
of the orchestral balancing is highlighted by the present
superb transfer - by Ian Jones.
was the inspiration behind this reworking of the Cello Concerto,
Op. 8 of 1933-38. Of all works, the Sinfonia concertante
is one that qualifies for the epithet of, ‘of limited playership‘.
The score bristles with difficulties; exactly the sort of
difficulties that were Rostropovich’s daily bread. Both sides
of Rostropovich’s artistry are fully on display here – the
jaw-dropping virtuosity and that amazing ability to spin
a legato line like the finest singer. There is an unremitting
intensity to the score that seemed to feed Rostropovich:s
very soul. The RPO plays as if inspired, with a sequence
of wind solos that are as idiomatic as they are beautiful.
The second movement Allegro giusto bristles with hurdles.
Just listening to Rostropovich can make you dizzy. Recorded
balance seems just right between soloist and orchestra at
all times - the producer was Lawrance Collingwood - and there
is a most appealing warmth to the overall sound.
Miaskovsky has had a hard press. Prokofiev had his doubts
over Miaskovsky, while Malcolm MacDonald in his Gramophone review
of this performance echoed the same doubts. Robert Layton
and David Gutman (the latter the annotator of this release)
are more on the piece’s side, citing the prevailing simplicity
as the strongest point of the score. With Rostropovich as
soloist, it must be admitted, it is difficult to harbour
any doubts seriously. His glorious mezza-voce low register,
and truly beautiful cantabile in the first movement are balanced
by the glow at around sixteen minutes into the second. The
close of the work hangs in the air, out of which comes Rachmaninov’s
famous Vocalise. Here the meandering flow of melody
and the ultra-delicate piano pianissimi make for the most
haunting end possible for the disc. If on paper the Rachmaninov
looks like an encore, in practise it is much more than that.
gave a cordial welcome to a super-budget Miaskovsky cello
disc on Regis back
in 2001. It is certainly true the disc has its merits,
but if it is just the Op. 66 concerto you are after, then
there is really no competition, especially as if you hunt
around you will find the present Slava release for about
the same price as a Naxos.
Those of us lucky enough to hear Slava live can only be grateful
that we experienced the overwhelming musicality, charisma
and generosity of the man in the flesh. This, though, acts
as a fitting memorial.
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