Cellists are lining up to pay tribute to Mstislav Rostropovich in what would have been his 90th year, but Alban Gerhardt’s is an especially apt homage, showcasing the Russian master’s commitment to expanding his instrument’s repertoire and popularity, at the same time as celebrating his sense of fun.
It’s not a bad vehicle for the sparky Gerhardt and pianist Markus Becker, either. Rostropovich, with his knack for making the cello seem to sing, would surely have approved of their seamless playing of Glazunov’s arrangement of Chopin’s C sharp minor Etude, Op 25 No 7, in which the German cellist’s dark timbre engenders a very Russian sense of yearning. Amid miniatures by Scriabin, Stravinsky, Popper and Ravel, there are Rostropovich’s own arrangements, including a riotous March by Prokofiev and a slidy, twangy version of Debussy’s Minstrels. The disc is bookended by two rare pieces by Rostropovich himself, a scurrying Humoresque and an intricate Moderato for cello alone.