Russian cellist Rostropovitch dies at 80

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, performing at the White House on September 17, 1978.

Azerbaijan-born cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich (nicknamed Slava, Russian for glory) has passed yesterday at age 80, after having been admitted to a Moscow hospital in February this year, allegedly for intestinal cancer. The exact cause of death however has not been released. His coffin has been put in the Moscow Conservatory today, and many prominent and thousands of other Russians came to salute him. The cello player only died four days after his friend Boris Yeltsin.

Rostropovich was not only considered to be one of the best cellists in the world, but he also was a symbol of the resistance to the Soviet regime. In 1970, he provided shelter to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose writings alerted the world to the Gulag system of forced labour camps in the Soviet Union. Because of his support for dissidents, Rostropovich fell in disgrace and lost his citizenship in 1978. He was restored during the perestroika reforms.

Rostropovich conducted the U.S. National Symphony Orchestra from 1977 to 1994. In February, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered him the First Degree in the Order of Service to the Fatherland for his "outstanding contribution to the development of world music and many years of creative activity."

President Putin, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, French PM Dominique de Villepin and others have already expressed their regrets about the loss of Rostropovich. De Villepin brought to memory Rostropovich's performance at the Berlin Wall during it's fall, an image globally broadcasted which earned him international fame.


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