Rostropovich: Artist Portrait (CD review)

Mstislav Rostropovich, cello; Herbert Tachezi, Hugh Wolff, Seiji Ozawa; Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, London Symphony, Boston Symphony. Warner Classics 0927 49706-2.

Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007) probably recorded the basic cello repertoire about a dozen times over, so it's no surprise that Warner Classics could gather together eleven short selections from their own catalogue of Teldec and Erato releases. Whether you think they are the best recordings this bigger-than-life artist ever made is a matter of personal opinion, but certainly there is much here to admire.

In the various recordings, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the London Symphony, and the Boston Symphony accompany Rostropovich, the ensembles lead by maestros Herbert Tachezi, Hugh Wolff, and Seiji Ozawa. The eleven selections on the disc include the Allegro from Tartini's Cello Concerto in D major; Vivaldi's Cello Concerto in D minor, Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme, Bach's Adagio from the Organ Toccata in C major, arranged by Alexander Siloti, the Allegro giusto from Prokofiev's Symphony-Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, the Adagio from Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B minor, and the Allegretto from Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1, among others.

Although I don't really care much for bits and pieces of music, of the bunch offered on the collection, I liked the Tchaikovsky Variations best. They seem to encapsulate all that is good about Rostropovich's playing, the various moods, the thrill, the excitement of his cello. Not that he doesn't carry off the other works with equal aplomb, but Tchaikovsky seems to bring out the best in the man, the flair, perhaps.

The Warner sound is uniformly warm and comfortable. There is not much visceral thrill to it, not a good deal of transparency or air or dynamic impact, but there is a pleasantly realistic bloom and a modestly wide stereo spread.

Warners' "Artist Portrait" series may simply be another way of repackaging old material, but this entry, at least, has a few pleasant merits.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa