The World Bids Farewell to Rostropovich: Quotes of Tribute From Musicians and Political Figures

Classic Arts News   The World Bids Farewell to Rostropovich: Quotes of Tribute From Musicians and Political Figures
Mstislav Rostropovich, the renowned cellist, conductor and human rights champion, was buried on Sunday (April 29) in Moscow. Mourners flocked to pay tribute at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which was destroyed by the Communists and which Rostropovich helped to reconstruct after the establishment of the Russian Federation.

Following the funeral service, the maestro was buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery, near his teachers Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev. As the ceremony came to an end, many of the mourners gave Rostropovich a final round of applause and bravos.

The burial came just a few days after the interment in the same cemetery of former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, to whose defense Rostropovich came on more than one occasion when his rule was threatened during the federation's unstable early years.

Rostropovich's longtime label, EMI Classics, has set up a website to commemorate the artist and his legacy. At, fans and admirers can listen to three of his concerto recordings (Beethoven, Brahms and Haydn), together with a podcast celebrating his life.

Musicians and politicians throughout the world have been paying tribute to Slava in recent days. We offer below a selection of their quotes.

Steven Isserlis, cellist (quoted in The Guardian):
"Everything Mstislav Rostropovich did was larger than life. Many of us will be remembering the way he embraced the cello - and life. He was irresistible. I remember going backstage to see him after he'd conducted a concert in New York. He saw me outside the room and came out and enveloped me with huge hugs and kisses. I went away walking on air."

Tim Page, Washington Post music critic:
"Even had he never picked up a baton, Rostropovich would still be remembered as one of the great musicians of the 20th century — a noble and impassioned cellist whose stated intention was to combine the qualities he most admired in his famous predecessors: sound from [Gregor] Piatigorsky, ideas and personality from [Pablo] Casals, feeling and beauty from [Pierre] Fournier. He was an unabashed Romantic who played with a full, burnished tone, effusive emotionalism and a virtuosic command of the instrument."

Yo-Yo Ma, cellist (quoted in The Chicago Tribune):
"Cellists, myself included, are so grateful to [Rostropovich] for the way he changed the cello repertory, increasing it by 30 to 40 percent through new music he commissioned. He made things once thought impossible on the cello possible and left us with a treasure trove of new repertory."

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Prize-winning author (in a statement quoted by the Interfax news agency):
"The passing of Mstislav Rostropovich is a bitter blow to our culture ... They tried to excommunicate him by force when they revoked his citizenship 30 years ago. I witnessed how he suffered. He glorified Russian culture the world over. Goodbye, dear friend."

Ignat Solzhenitsyn, pianist, conductor, music director of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia (quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer):
"Beneath his sparkling, brilliant, gregarious public persona, in private conversation Slava was utterly, deadly serious about music. For him, music really was that bridge over the unbridgeable, that expression of the inexpressible. In Slava's passing I mourn a dear friend and (in the words of his beloved Shostakovich) a true soldier of music."

Lev Ponomaryov, human rights activist:
"He was always taking risks, whether it was defending Solzhenitsyn or joining us to defend the [Russian] White House [from hardline Communists] in 1991. He will truly be missed."

Lambert Orkis, pianist and longtime recital partner of Rostropovich (in The Washington Post:
"Slava's ability to maintain a staggering workload, along with his self-imposed discipline, was amazing. Yet, on tour at least, he celebrated life after every concert. He would keep restaurants open, dazzling the staff and chefs with his charm ... He had more energy, more love, more anger, more concern and more insight than any other individual I knew."

David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer music critic:
"Irrepressible, effervescent and supremely brilliant."

Ralph Kirshbaum, cellist (quoted in The New York Times):
"He is the supreme example of a practicing musician, an internationally renowned artist, who brings into the world so many new compositions. He made it his business to know these composers and goad from them these compositions. He would insist, 'Must write piece for me!'"

Michael M. Kaiser, President of the Kennedy Center:
"I saw a performance of Verdi's Requiem at Tanglewood with Slava Rostropovich playing and his wife, Galina Vishnevskaya, singing. It is one of the most vivid and moving performances I have ever experienced. His passion came through his music. The National Symphony Orchesta, the Kennedy Center and the world are diminished with his death."

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia (in a telegram to the maestro's family released by the Kremlin):
"He was spiritually generous, never indifferent, determined, fiery. Thus will he remain in our memories."

Jean-Pierre Rampal, flutist (in 1994):
"I've never heard the cello played like that. The technique was so fantastic. It was an immensely difficult concerto, and he was like a fish going through the water."

David Finckel, cellist, member of the Emerson Quartet, co-artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (quoted by the AP):
"He was the most inspiring musician that I have ever known ... He had a way to channel his energy through other people, and it was magical."

Davyd Booth, Philadelphia Orchestra violinist (quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer):
"He was what I call a re-creative musician. He had such an active mind, and it was constantly going into every corner of a composition."

Leonard Slatkin, conductor, Rostropovich's successor as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.:
"With the death of Slava Rostropovich, the world has lost an incomparable musician, an ardent spokesperson for human rights, and an extraordinary human being. There are only a handful of artists who have influenced the musical landscape of the world. Slava's impact has been felt time and time again. Whether crusading on behalf of composers, other musicians or his fellow citizens, his personality always dictated what was fair and just. He single-handedly brought the cello into the 20th century."

Natalya Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's wife, who with her husband spent four years taking refuge from the Soviet authorities in Rostropovich's dacha:
"He spent all his life being in love. He was in love with the music he played, with those who listened to him, with his loved ones, with the halls he played in ... And in this state of love one is capable of moving mountains. And he did."

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