Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dvořák Cello Concerto with Rostropovich

As Wikipedia says, fourty-two years ago, Mstislav Rostropovich, a giant Russian cello soloist, played at the London Proms on the night of August 21, 1968.

He played with the Soviet State Symphony Orchestra and it was the orchestra's debut performance at the Proms. The programme featured Czech composer Antonín Dvořák's Cello Concerto and was the same day that Russians invaded Czechoslovakia to put an end to Alexander Dubček's Prague Spring; see TRF 2007, TRF 2008.

It was reported that he was crying as he performed: BBC 2007.

A great piece, right?

This particular recording, however, was made with the conductor Carlo Maria Giulini and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The 1968 video with the Soviet orchestra doesn't seem to be available but BBC calls it one of the greatest ever recordings of the piece by the Czech composer.

I wouldn't be surprised if Rostropovich cried a bit because it is an emotional piece by itself and his situation was truly exceptional: he was a Soviet musician interpreting a gift from a 19th century Czech musical genius on the day when the Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia in a barbarian way to restore neo-Stalinism in the country. It doesn't help to reduce the tension and dilute the internal consistency of this story that Rostropovich's first name, Mstislav, means "famous for the revenge" ;-) although some people suggest that "Slav" in the Slavic names is related to the adjective "Slavic", too.

Hat tip: Tudor C.

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