Mstislav Rostropovich, cello
Sviatoslav Richter, piano (Brahms, Grieg)
Benjamin Britten, piano (Shostakovich)
Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007) the great Russian cellist was closely associated with Sviatoslav Richter throughout his life and with Benjamin Britten from the early 1960s after an introduction by the composer Dmitri Shostakovich. In addition to this, Rostropovich loved performing in Aldeburgh where Britten established his festival in the 1940s, and he even bought a house there. As a result of this friendship, Britten wrote six works dedicated to Rostropovich including a song cycle for Rostropovich's wife Galina Vishnevskaya. In 1960, Rostropovich formed a duo with Richter and in this debut year performed the Brahms E minor which they play here.
Apart from the quality of the music performed, this CD showcases some of the greatest classical artists of the 20th century.
Both the Brahms Cello Sonata in E and the Grieg Cello Sonata in A with Richter have circulated for years on the tape underground but here we have the BBC's own masters in stereo. These tapings are also notable because they are among the very few performances that the duo gave outside Russia. The Grieg finds the partnership at its best, both players putting out waves of beautiful tone and expanding effortlessly into the melodies - one or two of which Grieg borrowed from earlier works.
The Shostakovich Cello Sonata in D with Britten was requested personally by Rostropovich prior to his death for this CD programme on BBC Legends. Britten's close association with Shostakovich (Britten premiered the UK debut of the composer's Symphony No.14) is also revealed in the wonderfully understanding and sympathetic accompaniment he gives Rostropovich in this early work.
• This BBC Legends issue celebrates the playing of Mstislav Rostropovich relatively early in his career... [his] playing is masterly, dominating each performance with its magnetism as well as its resonance...he uses a very free vibrato, and yet in the close of his solo his pianissimo is breathtaking. (Edward Greenfield, Gramophone) BBCL 4240-2
• …a very valuable disc that I would urge all those interested in the art of interpretation to buy." (Classical Source)