27 April 2007

RIP: Mstislav Rostropovich

1965 photo

ZUI this article from the Scotsman:
The Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, who became a symbol of the fight for artistic freedom under Soviet rule, died yesterday [27 April] aged 80.

Vladimir Putin, the president, who feted the maestro in the Kremlin last month when he made a frail appearance at his 80th birthday celebration, called his death a "huge loss".

"I want to tell [his] relatives and loved ones: 'Please accept my deepest condolences. This is a huge loss for Russian culture'," Mr Putin said.

Says the Herald:
Mstislav Rostropovich - the glorious Slava, as he was nicknamed - was the most exuberant and big-hearted of cellists, the obverse of the pensive, perhaps even greater, Pierre Fournier, and for the public at large he was the man who spectacularly bridged the gap between Pablo Casals and Yo-Yo Ma.

Although in modern times his outsized musical personality came to seem outmoded in the music of Bach, in which Pieter Wispelwey, Paulo Pandolfo and other members of the new school of playing have surpassed him, it was Rostropovich - who else could it have been? - who performed Bach's suites at the base of the Berlin Wall when it was dismantled.


He had been ailing for some time and was no longer the figure he had once been, though Vladimir Putin honoured him last month with a birthday party at the Kremlin. Scotland, fortunately, had heard him in his heyday, playing Bach's complete suites at the 1962 Edinburgh Festival, an event for which he gave his services free.

That was the great Shostakovich year, presided over by Lord Harewood, in which Rostropovich partnered Benjamin Britten in Shostakovich's Sonata for cello and piano as well as in Britten's own Cello Sonata, specially written for him in 1961. Theirs was one of the great creative friendships, which resulted also in Britten's Cello Symphony, one of the masterpieces of modern cello music, and the three suites for solo cello, which today take their place alongside Bach's in the cello repertoire.

And from the North County (CA) Times:
Mstislav Rostropovich played the cello with grace and verve _ and lived his life offstage the same way. His death at age 80 takes away one of modern Russia's most compelling figures, admired both for his musical mastery and his defiance of Soviet repression.

Rostropovich stirred souls with playing that was both intense and seemingly effortless. He fought for the rights of Soviet-era dissidents and later triumphantly played Bach suites below the crumbling Berlin Wall.

In his last public appearance, at his birthday celebration in the Kremlin on March 27, Rostropovich was frail but still able to show his capacity for joy and generosity.

"I feel myself the happiest man in the world," he said. "I will be even more happy if this evening will be pleasant for you."

Spokeswoman Natalia Dollezhal confirmed Rostropovich's death, but would not immediately give details. The composer, who returned to Russia last month after years of living in Paris, had suffered from intestinal cancer.

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