This key title is being reissued at a special price as part of the celebration of Rostropovich - "Cellist of the Century". Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich was born in Baku, USSR on March 27, 1927. His first name means "avenged glory"; he is familiarly known by the root of the name, "Slava," which means "glory." His father, Leopold, was an excellent cellist, and after 1931, a teacher at the Gnesin Institute, Moscow after attending the Moscow Conservatory. Slava's mother was an accomplished pianist. The family moved to Moscow in 1931; Slava had already begun cello studies with his father and continued them there. His first public appearance was at eight years of age. In 1939, he entered the Central Music School, studying there until 1941.
First released in 1984 and reissued in 2001, this disc featuring the Alban Berg Quartet's recordings of the string quartets of Debussy and Ravel, as well as Stravinsky's Three Pieces, Concertino, and Double Canon for string quartet should never be out of the catalog. The Alban Berg Quartet is not necessarily the first group one would think of for this repertoire, but the performances here are consistently impressive, if somewhat uncharacteristic.
This marks the first release with Robin Ticciati leading the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, and it makes the requisite splash. There's a world premiere: even if you're not on board with the trend of enlarging the repertory through arrangements of works that are perfectly good in their original form, you will likely be seduced by mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozená's ravishing reading of Debussy's voice-and-piano Ariettes oubliées, inventively arranged by Brett Dean. There's a little-known work: the opening one, Fauré's Prelude to Pénélope (a sparsely performed opera, with a slightly less sparsely performed prelude) is a lush and beautifully controlled arc. Controlled and detailed are two words that come to mind for Ticciati's interpretation of La mer, the warhorse work on the program; it may seem a bit deliberate, but there are many hues in his performance. The two Debussy works are balanced by two of Fauré's: the fourth work is the suite from Fauré's incidental music to Pélleas et Mélisande (in Charles Koechlin's version), also deliberate and lush. Linn recorded the performance in Berlin's Jesus Christus Kirche, which allows the full spectrum of orchestral colors to come through. Worth the money for Kozená fans for her turn alone, and a fine French program for all.