Mstislav Rostropovich, the legendary cellist who was also a masterful pianist and conductor, was born in Baku (Azerbaijan, USSR) in 1927. As the son and grandson of a cellist, he started piano lessons at age 4 before entering the famed Moscow Conservatory, where he studied the cello. At the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, he continued studying the piano and cello as well as conducting and composition under reputed mentors, including Dmitri Shostakovich who became one of his closest friends. Rostropovich gave his first concert in 1942 and went on to win the international competitions of Prague and Budapest after the end of the war. His international career began in 1964 when he performed a concert in Germany. At the time, he was already well known in his own country and in addition to a heavy schedule of solo appearances, he taught at the Leningrad Conservatory and later at the Moscow Conservatory.
He had always been attracted to the opera, due in part, undoubtedly, to his wife, the reputed soprano Galina Vichnevskaïa. In 1967, Mstislav Rostropovich made his conducting debut at the Bolshoi, when, to much applause, he led a performance of Tchaikovsky's opera, Eugene Onegin. Thereafter, he regularly conducted operatic works at the Bolshoi.
Through his many activities, including piano accompanist for recitals of Russian melodies, orchestra conducting, soloist career, teaching, etc., Mstislav Rostropovich passionately pursued the twin ideals of music without borders and the freedom of expression. After publicly supporting the dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Rostropovich was forced to leave the U.S.S.R. in 1974 and was subsequently stripped of his citizenship. From then onwards, he fought a constant battle for the liberation of another dissident in exile, Andrei Sakharov. In 1977, this committed musician began a new career when he succeeded Antal Dorati as director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., a position he held until 1994.
Rostropovich was a wonderful chamber musician and often performed in trio with Emil Guilels and Leonid Kogan or in sonata with Sviatoslav Richter, Vladimir Horowitz or Martha Argerich. In 1977, Rostropovich was appointed artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival, which was founded by Benjamin Britten, and for a few seasons beginning in 1983, he directed his own festival nearby, in Snape. He was also artistic director and president of the Rostropovich Festival in Evian.
Rostropovich was elected to the Institut de France in 1988, and his Russian nationality was restored in 1990. Thereafter, he performed as soloist and conductor in his native land. In December 1995, he brought down the house at the Bolshoi when he conducted the original version of Mussorgsky's Khovantchina, with orchestration by Shostakovich and directing by Boris Pokrovsky.
A fervent champion of contemporary music, Mstislav Rostropovich conducted an impressive number of world premieres including Bernstein's Three Meditations, works by Landowski, Dutilleux, Lutoslawski and Penderecki, as well as Alfred Schnittke's opera, Life with an Idiot, and one of Schnittke's symphonies.
Numbering more than seventy, it would be impossible to enumerate all the scores specially composed for Mstislav Rostropovich! To mention but a few, there are Shostakovich's two cello concertos and a sonata, Prokofiev's Symphony-Concerto and Cello Sonata, Britten's Suites, Sonata and Cello Symphony, Ohana's Sonata and Concerto, In Dark and Blue, Lutoslawski's Concerto, Dutilleux's Tout un monde lointain and Schnittke's Second Concerto.
In addition, one of Rostropovich's cellos, a 1711 Stradivarius, once belonged to Duport (after whom the cello is named) and to Franchomme. The Russian cellist's abundant discography is in proportion to his extraordinary career and international renown! Yet, it was not until he was nearly 70 years old that he decided to record J.S. Bach's six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello.
As Dmitri Shostakovich aptly wrote: "Whatever Rostropovich chooses to play, from Bach to Hindemith, we hear an intense expression of our times, loud and clear!
MSTISLAV ROSTROPOVITCH EN ALSACEMstislav Rostropovitch est venu à 10 reprises en Alsace en 1967, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1989, 1995, 1996 et 1998.A Strasbourg :La première fois qu’il se produit devant le public alsacien en soliste, c’est le 15 juin 1967 au Festival de Musique de Strasbourg. Il revient dans le cadre du 39ème Festival de Musique de Strasbourg le 9 juin 1977, le 13 mars 1979 dans un concert exceptionnel de l’Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg dirigé par Alain Lombard, puis le 20 décembre 1981, le 25 janvier 1995 au palais de la Musique et des Congrès de Strasbourg, dans un autre concert exceptionnel avec Charles Aznavour dans le cadre de l’ouverture de la Présidence Française de l’Union Européenne ainsi qu’en juillet 1998 au Festival de Strasbourg.A