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DVORAK Cello Concerto No 1 SAINT-SAENS Cello Concerto No 1957 Testament SBT 1101

plus Debussy, Popper, Scriabin and Rachmaninov Mstislav Rostropovich (cello) Alexander Dedyukhin (piano) Royal Philharmonic / Sir Adrian Boult; Philharmonia / Sir Malcolm Sargent Recorded 1956-1...
Mstislav ("Slava") Rostropovich at 70 is still too busy to waste time pondering the past, and yet we at the "listening end" have good reason to take stock. EMI has just released a stunning 13-CD set devoted to some of his most gripping Russian broadcast performances (including rare world premieres) and Testament here offer a worthy side-runner in this famous 1957 recording of Dvorak's B minor Cello Concerto.

As it happens, EMI's set doesn't include the Dvorak, which makes this excellent transfer doubly welcome. Slava's rich tone, rapt, soft playing and distinctive phrasing are usefully complemented by Sir Adrian Boult's structure-conscious conducting, while the Saint-Saens A minor Concerto - a delightful work crammed full of gorgeous tunes - finds Rostropovich summoning an impressive repertoire of virtuoso gestures. Again, the conducting is both expert and assured, whereas the closing selection of short pieces employs the talents of pianist Alexander Dedyukhin. It's a dazzling sequence, whether dancing among David Popper's elves or singing wordless in Rachmaninov's Vocalise.

Slava can make us laugh with Debussy's Minstrels or dream with Clair de lune; but perhaps the most memorable track of all is the 11th Study from Scriabin's Op 8 as arranged by Piatigorsky - a tender aside among passionate embraces.