The late Mstislav Rostropovich and Seiji Ozawa deliver probably the greatest digital recording of the Dvorak concerto. For those familiar with the analog Karajan/Rostropovich recording, this digital recording finds the soloist creating a similar impression married with a more supportive Ozawa and the Boston Symphony. Karajan's creamy string sound and often overly-dramatic stylization is replaced here by Ozawa's stricter approach; his handling of the orchestra is masterful in this taught, precise reading. The legendary Boston Symphony responds resplendently and, although they may not highlight the rustic Czech idiom of this music, they certainly bring much charm, warmth, and expected musicality to the accompaniment. But enough about the orchestra - on to Rostropovich.
Yundi Li goes from strength to strength. Deeply thoughtful and formidably virtuosic, he makes light work of Prokofiev’s nightmarish technical demands. This is a really superb disc. As for Seiji Ozawa, he comes in for some bad press these days but here he is a quite wonderful accompanist, coaxing haunting, unforgettable sounds from the Berlin Phil.
A rewarding release… As to the Mandarin, first impressions suggest a gloved fist on Ozawa's part and a general softening of attack since [his earlier DG recording from] 1975… Ozawa is strong on sensuality - those all-pervading glissandos, the seduction games and the languidly teasing sequences that lead to the chase… As to the Concerto for Orchestra…the Bostonians' Bartókian pedigree - it was, after all, Koussevitzky who commissioned the work — guarantees a certain élan and refinement… Ozawa is best where the going gets frantic (his finale is terrific, especially at the outset, and he plays Bartok's more concise original ending)… Ozawa's virtues are intelligence, alertness and a fine ear for detail… (Gramophone [8/1995] reviewing the Bartók recordings, originally released as Philips 442783)
… boldly carved, formidable in articulation, bright in tone, inspired in sensibility… [Serkin's] profundity makes him a paragon among pianists of the mid-20th century.(The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians)
Seiji Ozawa has been music director of the Vienna State Opera since the 2002-03 season and is an annual and favored guest of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Prior to his Vienna State Opera appointment he served as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for twenty-nine seasons (1973-2002)—the longest-serving music director in the orchestra’s history…