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Recordings

A Night to Remember: Placido Domingo & Mstislav Rostropovich
19 Apr 2006

A Night to Remember: Placido Domingo & Mstislav Rostropovich

Only a few seconds after watching this DVD I was reminded of one of the great marketing failures in records. More than forty years ago, RCA brought out several glorious LP’s of young Gigli’s records and they put photographs of the sixty-five year old tenor on the sleeve.

A Night to Remember: Placido Domingo & Mstislav Rostropovich

Placido Domingo, Mstislav Rostropovich, Olga Borodina, Kirov Orchestra

Immortal IMM 9600009 [DVD]

$24.28  Click to buy

On this DVD we get a recent photograph of the tenor. Moreover the sleeve notes mention that “despite his advanced age, the cellist’s control is exemplary” as if 79-year old Rostropovich recorded this DVD some months ago. Both gentlemen, however, look splendid, more youthful than their advanced age would tell you. I’m sorry to report this has nothing to do with a miraculous youth cure but more with the fact that one quick look into Domingo’s performing career revealed he gave this concert on July 17, 1991. And, this date probably solves another small mystery. For a few minutes I was slightly amazed the recording firm would send a review copy with less than perfect picture quality till I remembered the concert date (not to be found in the sleeve notes). There’s always some haziness and the colours are a little bit whitewashed. But as a former TV producer, I remember too well the decade between the late seventies and the late eighties. We no longer used kinescope to record live performances as we had switched to an amazing amount of video recording means. When we watched them a few years later, this turned out to be a small disaster. Whereas film, and even kinescope, kept their full colour glory, a lot of recordings on video were almost beyond repair. By the nineties the technique once more had improved beyond recognition; but I fear that this DVD is one of the last testimonies of those early video years.

I’m a little bit sceptical concerning the programme. I wonder how many admirers of Rostropovich want to hear Domingo. Vice versa, how many Domingistes are interested in a Haydn concerto well-played though it is? This was a big open air concert and therefore pot boilers like the Tchaikovsky and the Verdi overtures were maybe necessary to sell tickets, but I seriously doubt there will be many people thirsting for a Domingo conducted Forza. The tenor is in good voice though, as often with Domingo, there is that generalized beautiful sound in the middle register without much characterizing and some pushing over the staff. For such concerts, he always carefully selected arias and duets that didn’t reach high B, which by that time was already beyond his means. The duet with Borodina is generously sung and is one of the first documents of the later star mezzo. And one has to admit, especially if one cannot comment on Domingo’s mastery of Russian, that rarely Lensky aria will have sounded better. But the best piece is the fine Massenet Élégie, which he sings more beautifully than old Gigli or younger Corelli. This time the colours in his voice are hauntingly plangent and Domingo himself plays the piano with Rostropovich at the cello. I wish both gentlemen had chosen more of such pieces. And I think that 58 minutes is rather short value.

Jan Neckers

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