Mstislav Rostropovich

Le violoncelle du siècle

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When it comes to random collections of recordings by Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, they don't get much more random than this two-disc set from French EMI. Only three works appear in their entirety: Bach's G major Cello Suite, Beethoven's Variations on "Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen," and Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme. Everything else is excerpted: the closing movement of Haydn's C major Concerto followed by the slow movement of Dvorák's B minor Concerto followed by the opening movement of Saint-Saëns' A minor Concerto, followed by the central and closing movement of Schumann's A minor Concerto and so on through the remaining 10 works. But as an overview of the greatest cellist of the second half of the twentieth century's EMI recordings, this particular random collection can't be bettered. In addition to the superlative performances above, this set also includes Rostropovich's masterful performances of the finale of Brahms' Double Concerto with violinist David Oistrakh and the finale of Beethoven's Triple Concerto with Oistrakh and pianist Sviatoslav Richter, as well as his virtually definitive performances of the opening movement of Shostakovich's First Concerto, the closing movement of Prokofiev's Symphonie Concertante, the fourth movement of Britten First Suite, and the fifth movement of Dutilleux's Concerto. Although the recordings range chronologically from 1957 through 1997 and geographically from Moscow to London, EMI's digital remastering does the best that can be done considering the multiplicity of sources. And, speaking of sources, EMI should have included the dates and locations for each recording.

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