Mstislav Rostropovich / Sviatoslav Richter

Beethoven, Brahms, Grieg, Prokofiev: Sonatas for cello & piano

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Fans of either cellist Mstislav Rostropovich or pianist Sviatoslav Richter will have to hear the performances on this two-disc Doremi set. It contains the four pieces they performed in Moscow on March 1, 1950 -- Brahms' Sonata No. 1 and Beethoven's sonatas No. 3 and No. 4, plus the world premiere of Prokofiev's sonata -- and two of the pieces they played at the Aldeburgh Festival on June 20, 1964 -- Grieg's sonata as well as another Brahms' Sonata No. 1.

As their fans know, Rostropovich and Richter were technically just as impressive live as they were in the studio, but interpretively, they were even more exciting. Thus, the Beethoven sonatas here are as athletic as their later studio recordings for Philips but with more fire. More importantly for fans, these recordings of Brahms and Grieg's sonatas are the duos' only extant performances of these works together, and they prove as muscular and passionate as one could hope.

The most significant recording here, however, is the world premiere of Prokofiev's sonata. Rostropovich was the work's dedicatee, and the affection and dedication he brings to the cello part is only matched by the strength and sensitivity Richter brings to the piano, and the combined result is a performance that is for all intents and purposes definitive. Of course, most fans will already know this performance from its previous issues -- there was an especially fine transfer released by EMI in 1997 -- but those who do not will have to hear it. Despite their age and provenance, Doremi's sound is honest and direct, though not particularly refined.

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