Friday, April 27, 2007

Mstislav Rostropovich (March 27, 1927 - April 27, 2007)

A great musician and an equally great human being has died today. Mstislav Rostropovich - known to many as "Slava" - was music director of the National Symphony Orchestra during most of the time I lived in the Washington, D.C. area.

Here's what my friend, photographer Walter Calahan, has to say: Mistislav Rostropovich

Many of my friends worked for him and they loved him.

Here's something Wikipedia says:

Rostropovich fought for art without borders, freedom of speech and democratic values, resulting in a reprimand from the Soviet regime. His friendship with Alexander Solzhenitsyn and his support for dissidents led to official disgrace in the early 1970s. He was banned from several musical ensembles and his Soviet citizenship was revoked in 1978 because of his public opposition to the Soviet Union's restriction of cultural freedom. Rostropovich left the Soviet Union in 1974 with his wife and children and settled in the United States.

And something else:

His impromptu performance during the Fall of the Berlin Wall as events unfolded earned him international fame and was shown on television throughout the world.

Aside from the marvelous bear hug he wrapped me in when we were introduced, what I will remember most was the way he conducted the National Symphony on the mall every Fourth of July while he was in Washington. You never saw anybody so exuberant about America. It was joyous to behold. One year he danced in the rain during the performance of Stars and Stripes Forever. He simply radiated a love for human rights and democracy and freedom. May he rest in peace.

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