Saturday, January 5, 2013

Album Review: Prokofiev and Shostakovich Cello Concerti

Sergei Prokofiev, Symphonie Concertante pour Violoncelle, Op. 125
Dmitri Shostakovich, Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 107
Mstislav Rostropovich, Cello
Seiji Ozawa, London Symphony Orchestra, 1988, Erato

The most thrilling concert I ever attended featured Mstislav Rostropovich leading the National Symphony Orchestra in an all-Tchaikovsky program. André Watts was the soloist for the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto. This would have been the spring season of 1982 at Carnegie Hall. It's a little sad that I haven't been to anything quite as outstanding since, but I have done far less concert-going in recent years.

Rostropovich was a great conductor, but first and foremost he was a cellist. He is responsible for commissioning a significant portion of the 20th century's cello repertory, and this is likely to be his most lasting legacy.

Two fine Russian works for cello and orchestra are featured on this 1988 recording. Both works are dedicated to Rostropovich, who plays them outstandingly here with the London Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Seiji Ozawa.

Sergei Prokofiev's Symphonie Concertante, Op. 125, dates from 1950. It is probably the lesser known work here. It is introspective at times with fine solo passages.

Dmitri Shostakovich's First Cello Concerto, Op. 107 from 1959 has long been a favorite of mine since I first owned the 1984 Yo-Yo Ma recording of the piece on cassette. The Concerto dates from 1959 and is captivating and compelling from the initial exposition of the theme in the first bars.


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