December 19, 2016
Mstislav Rostropovich: Cellist of the Century - The Complete Warner Recordings
“When I started learning the cello,
I fell in love with the instrument
because it seemed like a voice. My voice."
Although Mstislav Rostropovich died 10 years ago, on April 27th 2007, he remains a powerful presence on the world’s cultural scene through his legacy as the greatest cellist of his time, as a brave advocate of human rights, and as a man of proverbial generosity and charisma, often known simply by his nickname, Slava. He would have celebrated his 90th birthday in 2017.
The phenomenal richness of his life and art is expressed in a magnificent 43-disc set to be released by Warner Classics on 24 March 2017: Mstislav Rostropovich: Cellist of the Century. It forms the centrepiece of the label’s programme of Rostropovich releases for 2017, which also includes: eight individual albums also available as part of the box set, a double LP of the Dvořák Cello Concerto and Saint-Saëns Concerto No 1 (Giulini/London Philharmonic Orchestra), and an exclusive collector’s LP for World Record Store Day on 22 April 2017 – Rostropovich’s world-premiere live performance of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 2, with unique artwork inspired by illegal USSR recordings.
Mstislav Rostropovich: Cellist of the Century has been curated by Warner Classics in close collaboration with Rostropovich’s daughters Elena and Olga, whose mother was the celebrated soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, Rostropovich’s wife from 1955 until his death. The label was given unprecedented access to Rostropovich’s personal archive; as a result, many rare photos and documents – including a letter of support for dissident Soviet writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn – enrich the 200-page hardback book that forms part of the box set. It also includes a comprehensive chronology and fascinating articles by Elizabeth Wilson, one of Rostropovich’s students, and by Claude Samuel, a former head of Radio France and a close friend of Rostropovich.
The set, conceived as a deluxe edition, comprises 40 CDs and 3 DVDs and contains an even balance of studio and live recordings. The range and variety of music it offers is nothing short of extraordinary, embracing works by more than 60 composers. For solo cello, cello and piano, cello and chamber group, and cello and orchestra, they extend from the Baroque to the latter part of the 20th century and from essential repertoire to rarities. They also reflect both Rostropovich’s mastery of the traditional cello repertoire and his commitment to new music: the dedicatee of over 120 new works, he numbered such composers as Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Britten among his close friends. A number of the live performances featured originate from Russian tapes saved from destruction by resourceful Soviet archivists when Rostropovich was exiled from the USSR (1974-1990), and which came back to light in the late 1990s. Another highlight is the complete Bach Cello Suites, presented here in both audio and video versions. In many senses these represent the culmination of Rostropovich’s recording career; he waited until 1991 to set them down the studio. The box also contains a substantial and previously unpublished audio interview, dating from 2006, in which Rostropovich discusses Shostakovich with the journalist Jon Tolansky.
Rostropovich: Cellist of the Century will be released in March 2017. For more information visit www.rostropovich2017.com