Mstislav Rostropovich

The Glory of Rostropovich: 80th Birthday Tribute

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Given that box sets are too often thrown together in a last cavalier attempt to get mileage from back catalog, it's a pleasure to find one that has rhyme and reason, assembling a program that would be hard for the buyer to find on his or her own and offering a real tribute to a beloved figure. The career of cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich traversed quite a few cultural and musical junctures. He was, in turn, a hotshot, rather brash young virtuoso who emerged from the period of Soviet openness in the late '50s, a big player in the classic Russian mold in Russian and Eastern European repertory, a champion of Shostakovich and the other politically ambiguous composers of the late Soviet era, an experimenter with the Baroque before it was common to be one, a fine chamber player, an enthusiastic supporter of several different stripes of contemporary music -- and then the second half of his career, as conductor of the National Symphony in Washington, began. A set like this is a good way to get a handle on Rostropovich's contributions to musical life. It's not so much that any one thing he did was extraordinary (although his rapport with Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 2 on disc 3 is hard to top). For the Dvorák concerto, taken in isolation, one might choose Janos Starker's reading among the recordings of the third quarter of the twentieth century. But there's not another musician alive, or even dead, who could have filled all the shoes Rostropovich effortlessly wore -- and who could have stamped his warm, irrepressible personality onto almost everything he did. Let others find fault with individual passages; this box is about the broad sweep of Rostropovich's work, and that perspective brings home his greatness.

Track Listing - Disc 7

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
The Swan Lake, suite, Op. 20a
1
3:03
2
6:49
3
1:27
4
6:22
5
3:18
6
4:26
The Sleeping Beauty, suite for orchestra, Op. 66a
7
4:33
8
5:43
9
1:41
10
3:39
11
4:33
Nutcracker, suite from the ballet, Op. 71a
12
3:04
13
2:26
14
2:06
15
1:10
16
3:46
17
1:14
18
2:35
19
6:44
blue highlight denotes track pick