April 30, 2007
Mstislav Rostropovich, one of the world’s finest cellists, has died.
“He was the most inspiring musician that I have ever known,” said David Finckel, the Emerson String Quartet’s cellist who studied with Rostropovich for nine years. “He had a way to channel his energy through other people, and it was magical.”
Rostropovich’s sympathies against the Communist leaders of his homeland started with the denunciations of his teachers, Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev during the Stalin era.
Under Leonid Brezhnev’s regime, Rostropovich and his wife, the Bolshoi Opera soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, sheltered the dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn in their dacha in the early 1970s.
After Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, Rostropovich wrote an open letter to the Soviet media protesting the official vilification of the author.
“Explain to me please, why in our literature and art (that) so often, people absolutely incompetent in this field have the final word?” Rostropovich asserted in the letter that went unpublished.
He played Bach cello suites as the Berlin Wall was torn down and protested the attempted coup of Mikhail Gorbachev by hardline Communists. He was a gifted musician and a lover of freedom. He will be missed.