Mstislav Rostropovich, the former music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, a world-class cellist, and the dominating icon on the musical panorama of metropolitan Washington for two decades , died in Moscow today.
The famed musician was 80, his life spanning exile from the former Soviet Union to an emotional birthday celebration at the Kremlin last month where he was toasted by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rostropovich had suffered from intestinal cancer and died in the hospital, wires services reported, quoting the Russian News Agency and Rostropovich's spokeswoman.
It's impossible to condense Rostropovich's life to a single article, though the Washington Post makes a good effort of it. Rostropovich was one of a number of truly great musicians to come out of the Soviet era, and to me it's simply amazing that he and so many of his fellow musicians-such as Dmitri Shostakovitch and Sergei Prokofiev-were able to flourish even under the suffocating tyranny of a Soviet regime that viewed them merely as tools of propaganda against the West. Some, like Shostakovitch, tried not to buck the system while maintaining as much artisitic flexibility and integrity as they could. Others, like Rostropovotich, eventually left the Soviet Union to go where they could be completely free to practice their music and speak out against the rulers of their homeland. For that, and his decision to give his musical genius to America, we should be eternally thankful.