Thursday, 29 March 2018

CD Review (The Straits Times, March 2018)

Hyperion 68136 / *****

Back in 1992, when the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007) last performed a recital in Singapore, he played Shostakovich's Scherzo (from the Cello Sonata) as an encore. 

In his review, The Straits Times critic at the time mistakenly attributed that as a work by the cellist himself. Shostakovich has not been included in this very enjoyable album of Rostropovich's favourite encores but there are two original pieces by the master.

Humoresque and Moderato (for solo cello) date from his student years in the 1940s and display the kind of wit he was renowned for. The virtuosic perpetual motion of the former is also found in David Popper's Elfentanz (Elfin's Dance) and Christian Sinding's Presto, which German cellist Alban Gerhardt whips off with consummate ease.

As expected, there is much Russian music in this 70-minute disc. Prokofiev accounts for three pieces, two dances from the ballet Cinderella and the famous March from the opera The Love For Three Oranges. Rachmaninov's lilting Oriental Dance makes for a delightful contrast with his melancholic Vocalise, while Stravinsky's Pas de deux (from Divertimento) and Russian Maiden's Song (Mavra) are coloured with a ballet-like grace. 

Ravel's Piece in the Form of a Habanera and Debussy's Clair de lune, Minstrels and the rarely heard Scherzo sound ravishing, but for pure indulgence, Glazunov's arrangement of Chopin's √Čtude Op.25 No.7 takes the cake. No surprises,  as this sonorous study of sheer languour has been nicknamed the “Cello”.        

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