On this page it is possible to compare the two versions, while observing the score of the cello part.
Analysis of the two interpretations
Rostropovič begins on a solemn, measured note, between bars 33 and 48, continuing almost joyfully (bars 49-56) with slow underlining (bars 57-80).
Rostropovič: Measures 49 – 56
Rostropovič: Measures 57 – 80
Walewska is quite different. She feels the responsibility of this farewell. Instead of solemnity we have the determination of someone who has made a final, fundamental decision and is ready to face the moment ahead with awesome trepidation and doubts about the outcome. Thus there is no joy in bars 49-56, but a kind of intimate oath, confirmed by the anxiety communicated in bars 52-69, validated in bars 70-80.
Walewska: Measures 49 – 56
Walewska: Measures 57 – 80
At the new entry (bar 111), after the short, but brief orchestral introduction, the time for recollections (bars 120-176), which represents pure nostalgia for R, with W it is a real call from the past. While R transmits his sadness for something he lost and does not know whether he will get back (his homeland?) (R26). W concentrates on tenderly reliving anxious moments, which she knows must be abandoned for ever (W26).
Both artists provide great interpretations, then, though W is closer to the composer’s intentions. At this point a few remarks must be devoted to the accents on the quadruplets of bars 143, 144, 147, 148, 151, 152, 155, 156. W often places the accent on the second note (see bars 144, 148, 151, 152, 156), as if wishing to repress strong emotion, while R, who, as usual, is less emotionally involved and more nostalgic, only places it on the second note at bars 148 and 152. The performers are much closer at the moment of recovery and confidence in the certainties proposed by the orchestra (bars 177-204). R is more technical and forthright, while W is more veiled and appears to be anxious to reach the end.
Walewska: Measures 143 e seguenti
Rostropovič: Measures 143 e seguenti
After the orchestral introduction (bars 204-225) we have the cello’s brief entry (bars 226-245), played with a kind of distant pride by (R) in contrast with W’s emotional interpretation, since the difficult path towards the final farewell is about to be taken up again (bars 246-253). She plays these bars with resigned awareness. R, on the other hand, slows down considerably, expressing calm and forcing the orchestra to repeat the theme (bars 253-268) at a slower tempo than before.
Walewska: Measure 204 et seq.
Walewska: The Farewell
Rostropovič: Measure 204 et seq.
Rostropovič: The Farewell
The subsequent “purification” theme (bars 281-314) is very clear, sharp and joyful in R’s performance, while W approaches it almost reluctantly (as though she were confessing her sins) recovering somewhat, after bar 297, reaching full recovery from bar 311, and especially after the beginning of the “spiccato” at the end of the “meno mosso” (bars 315-346). When the same theme is repeated by the orchestra (bars 347-380), W underlines it forcefully and passionately, and her conclusion (the famous bar 380) strikes us like a knife thrust. W continues in this emotional race “so as to place a final abyss between herself and the past” (bars 385-421). R is quite different again. He plays the “spiccato” elegantly (bars 331-346), calmly continuing the dialogue with the orchestra (bars 331-346). The return to the theme (bars 346-380) is underlined with highly “professional” expressiveness and pathos, as is the following part (bars 385-421) though a little hurriedly, as if to communicate satisfaction over a dear goal that has almost been reached.
Walewska: “Purification” Theme
Walewska: Measure 380 et seq.
Rostropovič: “Purification” Theme
Rostropovič: Measure 380 et seq.
R continues in the same vein, playing the single meditation (bars 425-437) with his customary detachment and clarity, then going on to begin the already mentioned “60 bars” quite calmly (bars 437-457) – but this is the “isolated hilltop”! – (note the almost languid pause on the second movement of bar 459); after the uneventful trills in bars 475-480 there is gentle, sad progress (bars 481-484) becoming even slower (bars 485-488) ending up in a “ritenendo” begun before this instruction (already at bar 489) as far as the end (R33).
Rostropovič: Measure 425 et seq.
In contrast, W plays the entire “meditation” in bars 425-437 introspectively without slowing down (except for the cheerful first note of the second movement of bar 433) approaching the “drawing near” (bars 441-456) with great feeling and then the “ascent passages” with trembling anxiety (the first – bars 457-460 – with greater hesitation, the second – bars 465-467, with greater frankness and the third – bars 473-474, with greater satisfaction, though with a slightly slower pace). The trill is piercingly dramatic and experienced almost as a standstill before reunion. Surprisingly, W begins bar 481 with a drawn out grace note (A sharp before the B) absent from the score, though it has the magic effect of separating the standstill from the return in the last phrase. It is a moment of extraordinary emotional intensity (in the second movement of 483, note the G, linked to its analogue in bar 484 which, however, is played with different fingering, thus heightening emotion) so as to participate in the final adieu. Then we have the descent and the last heart breaking cry.
Walewska: Measure 425 et seq.
Both Rostropovich and Walewska give us two great performances.
However, it is the latter who allows Dvorak’s Concerto to live its own life.
Future performers will need to think at length about the dilemma: do I express myself or the music I am playing?