Go out and listen to something…

April 27, 2007

Mstislav Rostropovich

Filed under: music — burnett @ 6:53 am

Slava died today, and I thought it best to write a few memories while the motivation is fresh.� I first met Slava in 1980, and he worked with my chamber group, the Foggy Bottom Chamber Music Society from that point until 1986.� He coached us on the Prokofief Cello Sonata, the Brahms d minor Violin Sonata, the Brahms g minor Piano Quartet and the Shostakovich Piano Quintet.� The Brahms was on camera, part of a US AID documentary on Slava, with extensive footage of the FBCMS performing the Brahms under his exhortations.�

As everybody knows, Slava lit a fire under any musician that was working with him.� He wanted the ‘louds’ to be super loud and the ‘quiets’ to be almost inaudible.� Whatever we did to prepare, we came out of his sessions transformed by his concept.� We didn’t necessarily adhere to everything he said, but things were never the same after he was done with a piece.� Of course, the real value was in rehearsing the Shostakovich Quintet and the Prokofief Sonata.� I believe he premiered both of these works.� Slava presented his commentary in terms of images and emotions.� He wanted voices to be heard in a way that reflected human passion.� He never spoke of ‘balance’ for the sake of balance, and his only commentary on the overall sound had to do with projection of the musical idea.� The end result was that we would walk out of the rehearsal completely transformed.� I am not exaggerating with this statement.� Slava was an all-or-nothing kind of guy, who risked everything, including status, well-being, � and career for his vision and his principles.�

Slava wrote about the Russian government, “Why is it, that in our literature and our art, the decisive word so often belongs to people who are absolutely incompetent in these fields?”� � This question is universal, a warning to musicians worldwide.�

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