I just received a text message on my cellphone with the sad news that Mstislav Rostropovich has passed away. Still sitting here at Copenhague airport, and even though I was prepared (I knew he was severely ill, cancer in its last stadium) I feel like in shock. My plane is leaving in 15 minutes and I don’t feel the motivation to get up and do the normal thing like standing in line and boarding.
For me Slava was without a doubt the greatest cellist who ever lived. As all great performers he was not an easy character, but what a musician! Complete musicians like that don’t exist anymore – not only did he do ground-breaking things on the cello (playing with a passion which hadn’t be reached on that instrument before, playing with incredible intonation and much more power than people did before), but he was a brilliant pianist, conducted from an early age on and even composed music (played his little “Moderato” as an encore after my second Berlin Phil date).
What a loss for the musical world, my fingers are typing away, but actually I am just speechless. As long as I can think there was Rostropovich, the idol, the giant, the inspiration. Because of him I wanted to be a cellist, and now that he is gone I feel very, very empty and incredibly sad. Strange, especially since I didn’t have any personal relation with him, but he touched me as a young boy (I played for him when I was 12 years old, he made me realize how much I had to learn…) and inspired me so much while growing up as cellist and musician.
Thank you for having been there for such a long time, and I hope we other cellists will be able to live up to the standards you put there for ever to be!