Mstislav Rostropovich, 1927-2007

April 27, 2007, 11:25 AM · The world has lost one of its voices, a voice both beautiful and bold.

The great cellist and humanitarian, Mstislav Rostropovich, died today in Moscow at the age of 80.


"When I started learning the cello, I fell in love with the instrument because it seemed like a voice - my voice," Rostropovich once told Strad magazine.

Rostropovich's voice was unmistakable.

In 2000 I had the incredible privilege of playing in the Pasadena Symphony as we accompanied Rostropovich. I knew a few of his recordings, namely the Brahms Double Concerto, with David Oistrakh, made some half a century before. I didn't realize how distinct his playing was until I heard it live: I recognized it in an instant.

I was stunned by the sound pouring from Rostropovich's cello. Whatever his age, wherever he was, it was absolutely his voice.

It was a clear, unmistakable voice, used without hesitation, on stage and out in the world.

He spent much of his life in the Soviet Union, a place not amenable to the voice of the individual, or to those who would make a statement and take a stand.

Yet he did: he sheltered author Alexander Solzhenitsyn during his bitter fight against Soviet authorities in the 1970s, and for doing so, was forced to leave his beloved Russia and stripped of his citizenship by Leonid Brezhnev in 1978. When the Berlin Wall came down, he placed himself in front of the rubble and played Bach.

Those walls do fall. And people like Rostropovich stand.

More links on Slava:

NPR obituary

The AP Story

BBC News obituary

Washington Post obituary

New York Times obituary

Boston Globe obituary

Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation

Our discussion


April 27, 2007 at 06:38 PM · I love the last line you wrote, Laurie. May he rest in peace.

April 27, 2007 at 09:10 PM · I am very moved today at the passing away of a great musician. His music will stay with us always. Good bye dear maestro, R.I.P.

April 27, 2007 at 10:36 PM · We have played with him just a few months ago. And he was as great as ever.

He shall remain in our hearts and our souls as one of the last great Mohicans of the music world.

My sincere condolences to his family.

April 28, 2007 at 02:25 AM · Here's video of the Berlin wall Bach courtesy of yet another thread.

A couple years before this I'd read a review of Golytsin's book where he said the wall was coming down. That was so far-fetched. I thought not in my lifetime. Then in only a couple of years there it went, but I was not happy about it at the time, because of what he'd stated it was supposedly a prelude to.

April 28, 2007 at 05:31 AM · Oh thank you, Jim! I have for 17 years wanted to see that!

April 28, 2007 at 05:53 AM · I just read on that at 8 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday April 28, all cellists in the world are to play Bach suite n°2 in memory of Rostropovich.

They didn't say which time zone, but suggested maybe 8 p.m. wherever you are.

I say we all play some Unaccompanied Bach for Slava, whichever Bach moves you, be it cello or violin music.

If you are a student, you can find Bach from the cello suites in:

Suzuki Book 3, No. 7 "Bourree" (it's from Bach Cello Suite No. 3 in C)

Suzuki Book 5, No. 1 "Gavotte" (from Cello Suite No. 6 in D)

April 28, 2007 at 02:54 PM · Thanks Laurie! I'll be at a concert at 8:00, but I'll play some Bach for him today anyway.

April 28, 2007 at 04:00 PM · Ditto on the comment that that was a beautifully put final line (or two), Laurie. So touching.

And Jim - thanks for the link, that was too cool.

April 28, 2007 at 07:02 PM · The link is courtesy of Mischa S.

April 28, 2007 at 09:53 PM · Bach, 8 P.M., got it!

He was a real force, so much so that he changed the musical world we live in.

We will all miss him very much.

April 28, 2007 at 10:50 PM · I just played the G minor Adagio, BWV 1001--8 PM two time zones to the east. :)

April 29, 2007 at 04:25 AM · What a great musician he was. His music will be enjoyed forever!!

April 29, 2007 at 05:34 PM · Thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute to one of the world's greatest. Your last line was beautiful...


April 30, 2007 at 05:05 AM · My conductor, Randall Fleischer, studied with him and was greatly saddened by his passing. We dedicated this weekend's performances of Verdi's Requiem to him. It was an honor to pay him tribute.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine