Friday, April 28, 2017

Mstislav Rostropovitch conducts Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 6 'Pathetique'


   As one of great personalities in music of second half of 20th century, Mstislav Rostropovitch was versatile artist of many qualities. His cello virtuosity and interpretative skills made his name widely recognized as soloist and conductor. Starting from 1962 stage of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District in Gorky Opera (today Nizhni Novgorod) he was active also as opera conductor. In 1967 he was conducting Eugene Onegin at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. From 1977 he was director and conductor of U.S. National Symphony Orchestra in Washington. As Russian patriot, born in Baku, son of Polish noble descent father, he was known for his civil courage and rational views. Year after year he was increasingly famous not only, in musical circles but also for his political attitude. His human rights advocacy was appreciated and rewarded with many awards and orders, especially in post-soviet time. Awards he received show, how unique person he was, for example Stalin Prize in 1951, Lenin Prize in 1964 and Medal of Freedom from President of USA in 1987. His position in musical culture and in 20th century social history is indisputable.
   Starting from his student times, when he quit Moscow Conservatory as a gesture of protest against dismissal of Dmitri Shostakovich form professor’s post he was supporting towards the opposition. In time of cold war he was openly opposed against political control over Soviet Union citizens especially artists and intellectuals. In August 1968 while playing in London at The Proms he made clear gestures of solidarity with Prague Spring. Developing his artistic career, he had more possibilities to fight for freedom of speech and democratic values. He was supporting many dissidents, among them Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who was his long time friend. In seventies, after he was banned from official musical life in Moscow, in 1974 he left homeland and four years later he was deprived of citizenship. He remained in exile for 16 years. In 1989 when Berlin Wall was falling down, he gave improvised concert. In 1990 his citizenship was restored and his return was seen as a manifestation of new era in Russian history. He was active in social life also later years; in 1991 he was supporting Boris Yeltsin during coup d'état attempt.

Mstislav Rostropovitch • Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony 'Pathetique' (1977)

   In mid-seventies Mstislav Rostropovich recorded complete six Symphonies by Peter Tchaikovsky with London Philharmonic Orchestra for His Master’s Voice label of EMI Records Ltd. This English production with addition of the Manfred Symphony op. 58 was published in 1977 by EMI branch offices all over the world. In England it was available as complete of 7 LP records in the box, but for various markets it was also released apart. It was possible to buy standalone symphonies or the whole cycle promoted in various collections and club editions. Next year EMI released record with Tchaikovsky’s two orchestral fantasies Romeo and Juliet and Francesca da Rimini. These recordings were reissued by EMI as 5CD set in 1995. Although all of Tchaikovsky’s symphonic works are eminent achievements, the whole series most featured are last symphonies, especially Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 ‘Pathétique’ which was last great work composed by Peter Tchaikovsky, premiered only nine days before his death.
   Recording session for Symphony ‘Pathétique’ took place at Kingsway Hall in London during three days September 13th to 15th, 1976. The place was known for its perfect acoustic space for orchestra sound and it was heavily used for recording sessions with London Philharmonic Orchestra (280 recordings) and London Symphony Orchestra (421 recordings). When London Philharmonic Orchestra was recorded Tchaikovsky under the baton of Rostropovich, it has 44 years of recording experience with Kingsway Hall. The orchestra in Pathétique sounds perfect as in organic unity. Rostropovich’s recordings were made during the years Bernard Haitink was on the post of principal conductor (1967-1979) so the period was propitious for plastic and massive sound of late romanticism. With this orchestra Russian artist found great partnership to create sophisticated performances of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, thus the interpretation idea is rather balanced than dramatic, closer to classical spirit, although composition by itself is dramatic and narrative-like in post-Romantic manner. This credible performance uncovering lots of inner beauty demands some friendly attention.

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