Mstislaw Leopoldowitsch Rostropowitsch

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Mstislaw Rostropovich as cellist, 1978

Mstislav Rostropovich ( Russian Мстислав Леопольдович Ростропович ., Scientific transliteration Mstislav Rostropovich Leopol'dovič * 27. March 1927 in Baku ; † 27. April 2007 in Moscow ) was a Russian cellist , conductor , pianist , composer and humanist . He is considered one of the most important cellists in history.


Origin, education, family

The parents Leopold Witoldowitsch Rostropowitsch and Sofja Nikolajewna Fedotowa around 1920/21

Rostropovich's parents were the cellist and Pablo Casals student Leopold Witoldowitsch Rostropowitsch (1892-1942) and the pianist Sofja Nikolajewna Fedotowa, who came from a well-known family of Orenburg musicians . Shortly after their wedding in 1922, they moved from there to Baku, where their son Mstislaw, known as Slawa, was born five years later.

The boy played the piano at the age of four and began to learn the cello at the age of eight. The father insisted that he learn this string instrument first, although Mstislav's childhood dream was to become a conductor. Before studying, he attended the Gnessin Music School in Moscow. When his father died in 1942, Rostropovich fulfilled his dream: at the age of 16, he went to the Moscow Conservatory in 1943 , where, in addition to piano and cello, he also took conducting and composition as subjects. Shostakovich and Prokofiev were among his teachers . In 1948 he finished his studies there.

In 1955 Rostropovich married the soprano Galina Vishnevskaya . He accompanied her as a pianist on song recitals and recorded a CD with Russian songs with her. The couple had two daughters.

Musician and human rights activist

Rostropovich with Benjamin Britten 1964
Rostropovich and his wife Galina Vishnevskaya , 1965
Mstislav Rostropovich as conductor, 1993
Rostropowitsch with BACH.Bogen 1999, Photo: Renate Hoffleit

Rostropovich was first known as a cellist. His international career and world fame began in 1964 with a concert in Germany. From 1970 he also appeared as a conductor. In addition to his musical interest, he was always very politically active and used his celebrities to stand up for dissidents . He took in the Nobel Prize for Literature Alexander Solzhenitsyn , who had fallen out of favor with the Soviet regime, into his house and defended this in an open letter to the newspapers Izvestia , Pravda and Literaturnaya Gazeta . As a result, he was no longer allowed to leave the country from 1971 and received almost only engagements in the province. After serious conflicts with the government, he and his family left the Soviet Union in 1974 , which revoked their citizenship two years later. In 1977 Rostropovich became chief conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC and remained so until 1994. He continued to give numerous concerts as a cellist. After his time in Washington, Paris became his official residence.

Rostropovich campaigned for democracy and human rights not only in his own country. He gave numerous concerts to support dissidents and civil rights activists from Eastern Europe. One day after the fall of the Berlin Wall , he traveled to Berlin and played the cello on November 11, 1989 at Checkpoint Charlie for the reunited Berliners. The following year, Mikhail Gorbachev , then President of the Soviet Union , rehabilitated him and his wife and offered them to become Soviet citizens again. Rostropovich later commented on this: "When Gorbachev made me an offer to apply for a Soviet passport in 1990, Galina and I wrote him a letter of thanks and refused." For the last thirty years of his life, neither had any citizenship. During the attempted coup in Moscow in August 1991, Rostropovich spontaneously traveled to the capital to defend democracy.

Importance as a musician

Rostropovich is considered one of the most important cellists in history. He was particularly committed to the music of contemporary composers. He was involved in the world premieres of numerous works - as a cellist in more than 100, as a conductor in around 65. The composers who composed pieces for him include Nikolai Myaskovsky , Sergei Prokofiev , Aram Khachaturian , Dmitri Kabalewski , Dmitri Shostakovich , and Witold Lutosławski , Benjamin Britten , Henri Dutilleux , Arno Babadschanjan , Leonard Bernstein , Pierre Boulez , Alfred Schnittke , Norbert Moret and Sofia Gubaidulina . His instrument was the Stradivari cello "Duport" from 1711. His most famous students include Mischa Maisky , David Geringas , Chang Han-na and Natalia Gutman .

Rostropovich was also interested in new instrumental developments of the violoncello. From 1997 to 2001, he and his council accompanied the development of the BACH arch and invited the cellist Michael Bach to the presentation of this arch in 2001 at the 7ème Concours de violoncelle Rostropovitch in Paris.

Vladimir Putin congratulates Mstislav Rostropovich at a ceremony in Moscow on the artist's 80th birthday on March 27, 2007

Rostropovich conducted concerts well into old age, around 80 per year. In 2006 he had concerts around the world, including in Munich, Paris, Washington and of course Moscow. Rostropovich performed for the last time as a cellist in Vienna on May 20, 2005. The occasion was the world premiere of a cello concerto composed for him by Krzysztof Penderecki . In an interview in April 2006 he revealed that he had not opened his cello case since May 20th. Asked in the same interview about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin , Rostropovich replied that he liked Putin because he knew how to deal with Russia.

A few weeks before Rostropovich's death, Putin personally awarded him the “Order for Services to the Fatherland”, first class, the highest Russian honor. The musician died on April 27, 2007 at the age of 80. Vladimir Putin paid tribute to him with the words: "This is an enormous loss for Russian culture." The funeral service took place on April 29, 2007 in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Mstislav Rostropovich was buried in the cemetery of the New Maiden Monastery according to the Russian Orthodox rite .

The mourning for him also determined the Cellofestival 2007 in Kronberg im Taunus . Rostropovich had helped shape the Kronberg Academy there and attached his foundation to promote young artists to it. In the year of his death, the festival a. a. an exhibition. On October 3rd, a bust of Rostropovich was unveiled in Kronberg Park .

Discography (selection)

Monument in Kronberg

As a cellist

As a conductor

As a conductor and cellist

As a pianist

Awards (selection)

Monument in Kronberg im Taunus





  • Mstislaw & Galina Rostropowitsch: The music and our life . Recorded by Claude Samuel. From the French by Annette Lallemand, Scherz, Bern 1985, ISBN 3-502-18641-3 (223 pages, 10 pages in the appendix with a discography of the Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya recordings).

Secondary literature

Web links

Commons : Mstislav Rostropovich  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. IN Parfyonova: Азиопа. Часть вторая. Дом - музей семьи Ростроповичей в Оренбурге., May 16, 2007, accessed December 20, 2016 (Russian).
  2. Mstislaw L. Rostropowitsch in the Munzinger Archive , accessed on December 20, 2016 ( beginning of the article freely accessible).
  3. a b Christof Siemes: Two knots in ten fingers. In: The time . No. 15/2006.
  4. ^ Mstislav Rostropovich and Michael Bach. BACH.Bogen, archived from the original on October 17, 2013 ; Retrieved December 20, 2016 .
  5. ^ Michael Bach: Presentation of the BACH.Bogen® on the occasion of the Concours Rostropovitch in Paris., August 19, 2002, accessed December 20, 2016 .
  6. Mstislaw Rostropowitsch - stations of his life. , April 28, 2007, archived from the original on December 1, 2017 ; Retrieved December 20, 2016 .
  7. ^ Mstislav Rostropovich in the Great Russian Encyclopedia. Retrieved August 8, 2018 (Russian).
  8. Įsakas dėl apdovanojimo Sausio 13-osios atminimo medaliu. Lietuvos Respublikos Aukščiausiosios Tarybos Prezidiumas, June 10, 1992 (Lithuanian), accessed October 1, 2019.
  9. Rostropovich becomes an honorary citizen of Florence. Firstitaly , at openPR , September 22, 2006 (press release)