Recently we saw the passing of Mstislav Rostropovich. He was a famous Russian cellist, pianist and conductor. You may have seen something on the news. I am deeply saddened. It will take me a while to sort out my thoughts and feelings. I could probably write several pages about Rostropovich. There was some wonderful music written for the cello thanks to Rostropovich and composers that wrote for him.
Rostropovich was a bit before my time with the cello. I did not have an occasion to hear him play live. He cut back on performing on the cello over the years due to his age. I remember when I was young I was very inspired by his playing and it is one of the reasons I became a cellist. His recording of the Rococo Variations by Tchaikovsky had a big impact on me when I was starting the cello.
He had an incredible ability to play with a sustained rich sound. His playing was remarkably clear. He made the cello sound very easy to play. He may have influenced what people expect to hear from a cello forever. It seems sometimes that he did not play the cello, but an instrument like the cello except with fewer limitations and additional qualities.
I think there is a great deal to learn from him and his playing. For years cellists will continue to listen and watch his playing on recordings to discover what is possible on the cello.
There are two things I wanted to mention about Rostropovich. Often I am driving in my car and I listen to the radio and think to myself “What a wonderful cellist? Who is that?” Then I almost always hear that it is Rostropovich. Another thing is that you can put his playing on for just 2 or 3 notes and I can usually already recognize it.
Rostropovich will be dearly missed and my thoughts on him will continue to develop over the years. I hope that we will not forget him and continue to learn from him.