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Vladimir Balshin

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Beethoven, Brahms and Brubeck are among the cellist's favourite recordings

Rostropovich’s expressive playing blends perfectly with Oistrakh’s more balanced performance

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Furtwängler
Beethoven Symphony no.9

Like all the great Furtwängler recordings, this is an impressive reading of Beethoven’s material. The string playing is full of depth, bringing out the different timbres of the music and there’s a real connection between all the instrument groups and the huge chorus. The joyful feeling heard in the finale really keeps you engaged.  

David Oistrakh (violin), Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)
Brahms ‘Double’ Concerto in A minor op.102

This record is unique. It sounds thoroughly Western, yet it was performed at height of the cold war by two of the greatest Soviet artists – they didn’t allow the burden of totalitarianism to prevail. When two great artists join together the result isn’t always as good as you’d expect, due to different musical aspirations – but not in this case. Rostropovich’s expressive playing blends perfectly with Oistrakh’s more balanced performance – you feel it from the first few bars.

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Carlos Kleiber
Johann Strauss II Die Fledermaus Overture

Kleiber is one of my favourite musicians. He worked very carefully and meticulously with some of the most outstanding orchestras in the world, and you can hear the results here, in this well-known piece. It sounds easy, ironic and humorous, and combines that with incredible rhythmic freedom – something that is important in this music.

Yuri Bashmet (viola) Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
Britten Lachrymae

As a contemporary of these two artists, I have seen many of their concerts at different stages of their careers. From the very first notes of this recording of Britten’s musically complex and delicate piece, you are transported into a mystical place. There is no room to think about anything other than the music they play. Bashmet and Richter paint each theme with its own colour, and each one is clear and balanced. Yet at the same time, there is a feeling of unity to their interpretation.

Dave Brubeck  
It’s a Raggy Waltz

In this piece Brubeck combines a delicate reggae beat with a charming light waltz in three, giving us a great example of his sound. It’s recognisable from the first note and is never forgotten. Brubeck doesn’t use special effects or flirt with the audience. He always remains true to himself – as can be seen in old videos – with his white jacket, straight back and aristocratic manners.

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