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ostropovich gives exhilharating performace

Boston was privileged to hear Mstislav Rostropovich -- very probably the greatest cellist of our time -- join the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a sold-out Symphony Hall on Sunday afternoon: Rostropovich surpassed even the loftiest heights demanded of an artist already established as a perfectionist.

Seiji Ozawa conducted Beethoven's Egmont Overture with a fine appreciation for the work's programmatic content: Egmont is a very heroic character, and the BSO performance was dramatic, from the powerful opening chords, through the forceful and troubled middle section, to the concluding brilliant victory march.

Although Rostropovich must have played Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme dozens of times, he maintained a freshness and high level of concentration throughout the ensuing performance. Daunting technical difficulties posed no problems at all. Rostropovich established a close ensemble relationship, maintaing communication, not only through Ozawa, but also with individual members of the orchestra. All of Rostropovich's subtle shades of color and dynamics were well matched: the performance was a success for both soloist and conductor.

Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B minor is both one of the most popular and most difficult concertos in the repetoire. The solo part was once more brought off with a show of flawless agility, and the special rapport between cellist and orchestra established during the Tchaikovsky endured for the Dvorak. The opening Allegro was alternately energetic and tender. The Adagio ma non troppo was warm and sincere, its melodies evoking a longing melancholy. Rostropovich's clear, singing tone was poignantly highlighted here, his apparently effortless execution of the most difficult passages making his playing all the more enjoyable.

The last movement, a feisty Allegro moderato, brought the evening to a fiery, joyous conclusion and earned Rostropovich a heartfelt standing ovation.

Richard Gotlib->