Mstislav Rostropovich / Boris Khaikin

Dvorák: Cello Concerto

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From his earliest performances as a confident, eager young man to the more seasoned, matured playing of the venerable octogenarian, Rostropovich's playing was consistently solid, technically superb, and musically insightful. This Membran Music album presents recordings from the earlier end of the cellist's venerable career. The cornerstone of the album is a 1957 performance of the Dvorák concerto with the USSR State Radio & Television Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra's performance varies from acceptable to borderline offensive: unfavorable sound quality, vibrato in the horn solos, sloppy articulation. The moment that Rostropovich enters, though, all of that is forgotten. Despite the poor recorded sound quality of the orchestra, the solo cello is surprisingly clear, rich, and powerful. The youthfully vital, brazen playing immediately captures the attention of listeners in the first movement, guiding them into the transcendently sensitive and warm second movement before concluding with the folk-tinged finale. Also programmed is the Introduction and Polonaise brilliante of Chopin, demonstrating Rostropovich's considerable technical bravura, as well as the Rachmaninov Vocalise and Schubert G flat Impromptu, bringing the album to a close on a song-like, flowing note. Sound quality in these works with pianist Alexander Dedyukhin is surprisingly free of noise and captures the intricacies of both artists.

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