Playlist: Rostropovich pupils

James Jolly Sat 18th February 2017

Rostropovich was a great cellist and conductor, but was also an inspirational teacher...

Mstislav Rostropovich was an inspiring and generous teacher (at both the Leningrad and Moscow conservatories, as well as in masterclasses). Perhaps closest to him in temperament is Mischa Maisky (b1948), whose two recordings of the Bach Cello Suites make for a fascinating comparison, the second, from 1998, the finer. Natalia Gutman (b1942) studied with Rostropovich in Leningrad. Her Schumann Concerto with Abbado conducting is a delight. David Geringas (b1946), a Moscow pupil, has championed new music assiduously – Lepo Sumera’s Cello Concerto of 1998‑99 is a powerful work in the style of Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto and well worth exploring. The Swedish cellist Frans Helmerson (b1945), who received guidance from Rostropovich as a young man and credits him with finding ‘the fifth gear’: ‘You had to direct 100 per cent of your attention to expression,’ he said. And that potent expression can be found (occasionally barely in check) in his exciting version of the Dvorák Concerto. Jacqueline du Pré (1945-87) worked with Rostropovich in Moscow in 1966, causing him to declare that she was ‘the only cellist of the younger generation that could equal and overtake [his] own achievement’. Her rhapsodic recording of the Brahms cello sonatas with Daniel Barenboim had Gramophone describing it as ‘quite extraordinarily expressive and beautiful’. Karine Georgian (b1944), who also recorded the Bach suites, clearly distances herself from the Russian school in her approach, offering a set of wonderful elegance and joie de vivre. Ivan Monighetti (b1948) who was Rostropovich’s last pupil in Moscow, has made a speciality of music both ancient and modern and his recent recording of Gubaidulina’s Sonnengesang is superb. Gary Hoffman’s (b1956) Mendelssohn sonatas demonstrate chamber musicianship of a truly collaborative nature. Wendy Warner (b1972), won Rostropovich’s cello competition aged 18 and performed under his baton. She brings an attractively soulful approach to Barber’s Concerto.

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