A lot of folks in the music world, including your humble correspondent, knew that Mstislav Rostropovich was gravely ill when his 80th birthday rolled around in late March. Hence the cheering in the media was probably a little longer and louder than it might otherwise have been — we knew that he wasn’t going to be around all that much longer. I for one feel very forunate to have seen Slava at the absolute apex of his conducting career – leading the National Symphony Orchestra in Moscow in 1990 (as described in my March 27th posting). His best days as a cellist were behind him by then, but on those occasions I did hear (or record) him, his performances were invariably passionate, warm-hearted, and musical. Of all the ink that’s been spilled on Slava in the past few days, I was especially touched by the appreciation penned by NSO pianist Lambert Orkis, writing for the Washington Post:
It was not only his musical personality that motivated me and my colleagues to give all our strength to the service of music. His warmth, friendship and love of life, as well as his irrepressible joy in music-making, invigorated us and will do so for the rest of our days.
Lambert’s words ring true foranyone that’s spent more than five minutes with Rostropovich. Amen. Farewell to Slava – a Soldier of Music.