Mstislav Rostropovich, a cellist and conductor who was renowned not only as one of the great instrumentalists of the 20th century, but also as an outspoken champion of artistic freedom in Russia during the final decades of the Cold War, died last Friday in Moscow.
While his passing is marked with sadness, the man, his life and his music will never cease to be a cause for celebration. As a cellist myself I will be eternally grateful to him, not just for his huge inspiration and for the recorded legacy that he has left behind, but also (and probably most importantly) for the extent to which he has expanded the repertory for the instrument.
He gave over 240 world premieres, many of which were written specifically for him. He was also the intimate friend of many of the leading composers of the age. Among the composers who wrote music inspired by his genius were Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Britten, Bernstein, Witold Lutoslawski and Alfred Schnittke. A colossus of a man, both in the music world and beyond, he will be richly remembered and sadly missed.