Showing posts with label cellists. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cellists. Show all posts

Monday, April 30, 2007

Slava forever

A friend has asked me to share my few personal memories of Rostropovich...

About three years ago, I interviewed him briefly backstage at the Barbican for The Strad's 'Double Acts' back page about his working relationship with Maxim Vengerov. The maestro turned on his very considerable charm and talked in rapturous terms about his much younger colleague.

Thing is, I'm a closet cellist-manquee. When I heard Han-Na Chang (incidentally, a Rostropovich protegee) play in Verbier 4-5 years back, it hit me between the eyes that the cello is the most beautiful and expressive instrument on the planet. And that if I could have my time over again, I would learn it and play it and never stop. It would have solved everything I disliked about playing the violin (high frequencies buzzing in one's left ear, plus desperately close, fiddly fingering), not to mention the piano (too many notes, my dear Horowitz) and the repertoire is 20-carat gold...

So at the end of the interview, I thank Maestro for the joy and wonder of his playing, which I heard on a few memorable occasions, and mention that I would love to have played the cello. "When you decide to start," said Maestro, "then let me know, and I will be your teacher."

I missed my chance. Well, he'd have been disappointed in me. I'd have got the strings the wrong way round and been severely blocked by the very notion of trying to go above third position.

The last time I saw Rostropovich perform was in Vilnius in 2004, where he conducted the Tchaikovsky Pathetique Symphony. It was glorious: like stepping into a Melodiya recording from the 1950s...The march in particular was far slower than most conductors take it these days. A friend asked Maestro about his choice of tempo later on. His response, apparently, was: "It's a march." You must be able to march to it. It made sense. And the final movement: devastation alive, raw, eternal, unforgettable.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Farewell, Slava

Mstislav Rostropovich has passed away.

The Guardian has a full obituary, tributes from James MacMillan, Steven Isserlis and others, and a selection of recommended recordings.

He was a pervasive musical figurehead, a by-word for inspiration and idealism, a last link with Prokofiev and Shostakovich, and an unforgettable presence with or without his cello.

UPDATE, 8.15 Saturday 28 April:
A press release from 98.7WFMT, Chicago's Classical Experience, informs us that the radio station is paying tribute to Rostropovich today by broadcasting recordings from its archives of his cello performances and conducting. In addition, the station is airing voicemails and reading emails from listeners recounting memories of the world-renowned musician, who visited Chicago many times during his lifetime. Rare interviews have also been posted on

There's a very touching tribute by Richard Morrison in The Times. He says, among other things: "...the music from Rostropovich’s cello wasn’t just beautiful. It was a transcendental message of hope, surging and irresistible, from one soul to another – his to yours. If I live to be 100, I don’t expect to hear another sound that touches me so deeply."

Clive Davis posts a video of Rostropovich playing Bach and some pertinent political moments from the New York Times's obituary.

UPDATE: Sunday morning: Opera Chic has a series of tribute posts and some very interesting links to news sites etc.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

When Steven met Slava

Ace cellist Steven Isserlis has a personal tribute to Rostropovich in today's Grauniad. Steven's one of those rare musicians who writes so well that he could put the rest of us out of a job. Here's a tempting extract:

Not surprisingly, considering the energy and passion with which Slava approaches every aspect of his life, he has a fearsome temperament. Once, his younger daughter Olga, who was studying the cello, thought her father had gone out, and settled down to read when she should have been practising. Unfortunately for her, Slava returned unexpectedly. Furious, he picked up her cello, brandished it and started chasing her with it, telling her to stop so that he could kill her (a request that she not unreasonably chose to ignore). Eventually, she ran out of the house, but he kept after her - and goodness knows what would have happened had they not passed Shostakovich, who happened to be walking nearby. He pleaded with Slava to calm down, and order was eventually restored; but I'm sure Olga learned to practise more diligently after that - or at least to lock her door.

Read the rest here.

NOTE: This is Post No. 501 on JDCMB.
EXTRA NOTE TO LONDON READERS/SELF: Don't forget to show up at Sheen Library for talk tonight.