Mstislav Rostropovich (EMI Classic Archive Series) (2003)

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Released 28-Apr-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Classical Bonus Track-Mussorgsky - Songs and Dances of Death
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 63:52 (Case: 84)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Walter Todds
Denise Billon
Gérard Herzog
Ideale Audience
EMI Music
Starring Mstislav Rostropovich
Galina Vishnevskaya
Charles Groves
Okko Kamu
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $34.95 Music Dmitri Shostakovich
Sergei Prokofiev
Modest Mussorgsky

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 mono (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Mstislav Rostropovich is probably the best known cellist of the second half of the last century. He was born in Azerbaijan in 1927 to musical parents, his father having studied the cello under Pablo Casals, the most famous cellist of the first half of the twentieth century. The precocious Rostropovich enrolled in the Moscow Conservatory in the latter years of World War II, where he studied with famous composers such as Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich. At the age of eighteen he won a prestigious competition for young musicians and was launched on a performing career.

    Like other talented performers, Rostropovich was exploited by the Soviet system. Large fees for performances and recordings overseas were pocketed by the government, with the cellist only given a living wage. Unlike other artists though, Rostropovich spoke out against the injustices of the Soviet system. A friendship with the dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn and public criticism of restrictions on Soviet artists led to Rostropovich and his wife (soprano Galina Vishnevskaya) becoming "non-persons", not allowed to perform or record. In 1974 they were granted exit visas and went into exile, stripped of their Soviet citizenship.

    Rostropovich continues to perform and record to this day, and has a flourishing second career as a conductor. He will, though, be remembered as a cellist, with many composers writing works especially for him. This disc contains two such works composed by his teachers and dedicated to him, Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1 and Prokofiev's Sinfonia Concertante.

    Both performances are excellent. The Shostakovich was recorded in a BBC television studio in 1961 with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Groves. This is as good a performance as you could expect, Rostropovich seemingly playing the work as though this was the only way it could be played. The camera spends most of the time on him, with an absence of close-ups allowing the viewer to watch him playing the cello.

    I am less familiar with the Prokofiev. This was filmed at Cannes in 1970 with the Orchestre National de l'Opera de Monte-Carlo under the Finnish conductor Okko Kamu. It is also well filmed, and the performance itself tends to convince that this is a great work. Rostropovich is fond of saying that he is the only living dedicatee of a major work by the composer, though that of course will change, eventually.

    In all, this is a fine disc and well worth the outlay.

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Track Listing

1. Shostakovich - Cello Concerto No 1
2. Prokofiev - Sinfonia Concertante

Transfer Quality


    All of the material is shown in the original television aspect ratio of 1.29:1, and there is no 16x9 enhancement.

    Allowance must be made for the quality of the source material, though it is far better than in other releases in this series. The Shostakovich is in black and white, with the usual lack of detail and heavy blacks associated with older television recordings. Contrast is adequate. Some grain is visible. The major problem with this transfer is the inability of the recording to capture fast movement. Often the cellist's hands become just a group of horizontal lines, as though the scanning was unable to keep up with the movement. This could in part be due to the recordings being made on an earlier European television system similar to NTSC.

    The Prokofiev is in colour. There is a lot of colour bleeding, cross-colouration, chroma noise and comet trails visible. The colour is reasonably good though nowhere near reference quality. Happily there are none of the motion artefacts visible in the 1961 recording.

    The disc is single-layered and there are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sole audio track is Linear PCM 2.0 mono.

    The audio is quite good all things considered. In the Shostakovich, there is impressive bass and body to the cello, though the recording is boomy most of the time. The 1961 recording is a little constricted, but the later recording has a nice dynamic range. There is not as much detail as I would expect in CD recordings of the same vintage, but the video aspect makes this less of a problem than it would normally be. The Prokofiev has a lot more orchestral detail audible, and sounds less flat and earthbound than the earlier recording.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Galina Vishnevskaya sings "Songs and Dances of Death" by Modest Mussorgsky (20:50)

    Rostropovich's wife sings this song-cycle in a recital recorded in 1970. Rostropovich accompanies on the piano. The black and white video recording is not the best, but the sound is good and Vishnevskaya is in very good form. A pity that there are no subtitles, more so given that the booklet does not contain translations of the four songs.

Classic Archive Collection - A Preview (9:37)

    Nine short excerpts from other titles in the series, each running about 1 minute. There is also a text listing of earlier releases.

DVD Credits

    Seven pages of credits detailing the origin of the recordings and DVD production credits.


    A twenty page booklet with detailed track listings, and a two page essay by Michael Jameson which is repeated in several languages. There are also several photos of Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This series is manufactured in the EU in both PAL and NTSC formats and distributed worldwide. This means that the Region 4 release is identical to the releases in other countries in content, and may differ only in television format. Therefore there is no reason not to buy locally, unless you can get a better price overseas.


    Two excellent performances by this Russian cellist.

    The video quality is not very good, but as good as it could be given the source material.

    The same applies to the audio quality.

    A lengthy extra, let down by the absence of subtitles or translations.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, January 10, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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