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Dvorak, Saint-saëns: Cello Concertos / Rostropovich, Giulini

Release Date: 06/06/2006 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 58232   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Antonín DvorákCamille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Mstislav Rostropovich
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DVO?ÁK Cello Concerto in b, op. 104. SAINT-SAËNS Cello Concerto in a, op. 33 Mstislav Rostropovich (vc); Carlo Maria Giulini (cond); London PO EMI 58232 (DVD: 64:00)

Recorded in London’s Henry Wood Hall in November 1977, these two performances offer a special reminder of the magic of Mstislav Rostropovich. If ever one needs to relive the pure magic of music, that elusive Read more quality that operates above and beyond all words, it is to Rostropovich that one can confidently turn; especially when he is in partnership with another “great”—here, Giulini.

The Dvo?ák Concerto has always been a Rostropovich favorite. Hearing him live at London’s Royal Festival Hall some years back—more years than I care to admit, to be frank—was a revelation for me. There, the Dvo?ák was preceded by Bernstein’s “Slava!” Overture, complete with a beckoning shout of “Slava!” from the orchestra. For those of us lucky enough to have caught him live, this DVD can surely only act as a reminder. Yet that is not to demean its stature. The meeting of Rostropovich and Giulini is an important one. They had put down this piece with this orchestra in Abbey Road in April and May of 1977, a few months before the present sessions. Of course, Rostropovich also recorded the work with musicians as diverse as Karajan, Ozawa, Talich, and Boult.

The great Suvi Raj Grubb was the audio producer for the present production. The sound passes the test of time with flying colors. Detailed and warm, it captures the London Philharmonic’s glow to perfection—this was a golden period for the orchestra. As for the color picture, it is crystal clear.

Not only is Rostropovich wonderful, his tone burnished, but Giulini matches him insight for insight. Giulini’s structural grasp is beyond reproach, yet he manages to generate real energy also—especially at the very close. Rostropovich plays certain parts of the slow movement as if he wants to wring every ounce of emotion from every note, making for an overwhelmingly intense experience. Now and again the question of “just how Czech is all this?” crossed my mind, but as an invaluable memento of a significant collaboration, this takes some beating.

Camerawork is finely judged; of particular interest are Giulini’s gestures, and the moment just before the downbeat of the slow movement, where he looks at the players before they play, only to look away at the downbeat itself.

The Saint-Saëns is hardly any less excellent. Rostropovich revels in the technical difficulties of it all, as do some of the orchestral players; listen to the flute’s answering roulades early on. But more important, the more ruminative passages are indicative of a real underlying depth. Saint-Saëns’s music, so easily and wrongly dismissed as trivial, needs more performances like this to awaken appreciation of its finer and deeper nature. There is the feeling of a courtly minuet at one point, and—unsurprisingly, perhaps—some simply gorgeous lower passages. The virtuosity towards the end is stunning.

Musically, then, this DVD enjoys the strongest of recommendations. Unfortunately, EMI’s accompanying notes are rather scant. There is no background to the actual sessions at all, merely two pages (English-only) on the music.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Cello in B minor, Op. 104/B 191 by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Mstislav Rostropovich (Cello)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894-1895; USA 
Date of Recording: 1977 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London, England 
Length: 43 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Concerto for Cello no 1 in A minor, Op. 33 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Mstislav Rostropovich (Cello)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1872; France 
Date of Recording: 1977 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London, England 
Length: 19 Minutes 12 Secs. 

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