Mstislav Rostropovich

Brahms, Grieg, Shostakovich: Cello Sonatas

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With their rough tone and coarse sound, none of the recordings on this disc can be recommended as first choices in this repertoire. But with Mstislav Rostropovich as the cellist and Sviatoslav Richter and Benjamin Britten as pianists, for the listener who can get past the tone and sound quality, there is much to enjoy. Rostropovich's playing here is by no means flawless, and some of it is surprisingly uneven, but his enthusiasm is infectious and his charisma is palpable. His accounts of Brahms' E minor Sonata and Grieg's A minor Sonata with Richter are stunning examples of his virile virtuosity and deep emotional commitment. Rarely have those works' central slow movements been as affectingly phrased. Similarly, Rostropovich's reading of Shostakovich's D minor Sonata with Britten is wonderfully invigorating in the second movement Allegro and fabulously moving in the following Largo, despite the cellist's less than perfect playing. For some listeners, the sound of these live 1964 recordings made in the Parish Church of Aldeburgh will be too raw to be tolerated, but those who can get past that will be well rewarded by the quality of the playing.

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