Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Franz Schubert; Robert Schumann; Claude Debussy - Works for Cello & Piano (Mstislav Rostropovich; Benjamin Britten)


Composer: Franz Schubert; Robert Schumann; Claude Debussy
  1. Schubert - Arpeggione Sonata, D. 821: 1. Allegro moderato
  2. Schubert - Arpeggione Sonata, D. 821: 2. Adagio
  3. Schubert - Arpeggione Sonata, D. 821: 3. Allegretto
  4. Schumann - 5 Stücke im Volkston, Op. 102: 1. Vanitas vanitatum (Mit Humor)
  5. Schumann - 5 Stücke im Volkston, Op. 102: 2. Langsam
  6. Schumann - 5 Stücke im Volkston, Op. 102: 3. Nicht schnell, mit viel Ton zu spielen
  7. Schumann - 5 Stücke im Volkston, Op. 102: 4. Nicht zu rasch
  8. Schumann - 5 Stücke im Volkston, Op. 102: 5. Stark und markiert
  9. Debussy - Cello Sonata in D minor, L. 135: 1. Prologue (lent)
  10. Debussy - Cello Sonata in D minor, L. 135: 2. Sérénade (Modérément animé)
  11. Debussy - Cello Sonata in D minor, L. 135: 3. Finale (Animé)

Mstislav Rostropovich, cello
Benjamin Britten, piano
Date: 1961 (4-11), 1968 (1-3)
Label: Decca



As Graham Johnson puts it in a perceptive essay on Britten the Instrumental Accompanist included here instead of conventional analytical notes, Rostropovich was second only to Sir Peter Pears as a Britten catalyst, inspiring some of his finest instrumental works as well as some of his most memorable accompanying. Or should I say partnering, for to quote Johnson again ''soloist and accompanist are so well matched, and respect each other so much, that the rigid role-play of leader and follower is joyously over-ruled, turning chamber music into a dramatic experience which suggests the dialogue of two actors''.

This is particularly evident in the temperamental caprice of the Debussy sonata, where the range of colour drawn by Britten from the keyboard, in response to Rostropovich's own, has to be heard to be believed. Their spontaneously attuned rubato throughout, as well as their rhythmic vitality in the finale, are further sources of delight. I certainly thought it a more stylish reading and recording than the fruitier-sounding one of Yuli Turovsky and Luba Edlina (Chandos). There's the same intimate interplay in Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata, but just as when I first reviewed this performance 17 years ago, so I still feel they over -interpret details in this engaging little work instead of letting it more often speak for itself. Loving though it all is, their constant rubato as well as very leisurely tempos make it sound more episodic than it does from Mischa Maisky and Martha Argerich (Philips), even though they, too, are no slaves to the metronome.

But Rostropovich and Britten are indisputable winners in Schumann's five folk-style pieces (even though No. 2, marked langsam, is questionably fast), much more at one with each other as well as with the ''rustic simplicity and strength'' (to quote Johnson again) of the music itself. In comparison with Britten, Argerich herself certainly emerges too impulsive—and often too insistent—a point-maker. As all three works come up as good as new, perhaps even better, on CD, this disc can confidently be hailed as a collector's piece, likely to survive in the gramophone archives for all time.

-- Joan Chissell, Gramophone

More reviews:


Franz Schubert (31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828) was an Austrian composer who was extremely prolific during his short lifetime. His output consists of over six hundred secular vocal works (mainly Lieder), seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of chamber and piano music. Today, Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers of the late Classical era and early Romantic era and is one of the most frequently performed composers of the early nineteenth century. His music is characterized by pleasing tunes while still has "a great wealth of technical finesse".


Robert Schumann (8 June 1810 – 29 July 1856) was a German composer and influential music critic. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. Schumann's published compositions were written exclusively for the piano until 1840; he later composed works for piano and orchestra; many Lieder (songs for voice and piano); four symphonies; an opera; and other orchestral, choral, and chamber works. Schumann suffered from a lifelong mental disorder, and died in 1856 without having recovered from his mental illness.


Claude Debussy (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music, though he disliked the term when applied to his compositions. Debussy is widely regarded as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. His innovative harmonies were influential to almost every major composer of the 20th century and also some modern music groups. Debussy's music is noted for its sensory content and frequent usage of nontraditional tonalities.


Mstislav Rostropovich (March 27, 1927 – April 27, 2007), was a Soviet and Russian cellist and conductor. He is considered to be one of the greatest cellists of the 20th century. In addition to his interpretations and technique, he was well known for both inspiring and commissioning new works, which enlarged the cello repertoire more than any cellist before or since. He inspired and premiered over 100 pieces, forming long-standing friendships and artistic partnerships with composers such as Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev, ...


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