"In 1991, when Communist hard-liners tried to topple the more open regime, Mr. Rostropovich went to Moscow to stand beside Boris N. Yeltsin. And two years later, during the siege of the Russian White House, Mr. Rostropovich, who was touring Russia again with the National Symphony, gave a free concert in Red Square, attended by 100,000 people. Originally planned merely as a gesture to music lovers who were unable to attend the formal indoor concerts, the performance was transformed into a show of support for democratization.
“Russians need to be reminded at times like this that they are a great people,” he told a New York Times reporter at the time. “Events disrupt things a little sometimes, but listening to this music is a reminder that there’s a great nation here.” His soloist for his 1993 Russian tour was Ignat Sozhenitsyn, a pianist and the son of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, on March 27, 1927.
His parents, Leopold Rostropovich and Sofiya Nikolaevna Fedotov, were both musicians, and his mother began teaching him the piano when he was four. When he was eight, he began to study the cello with his father, who had been a student of Pablo Casals, in Paris. In the mid-1930’s, the family moved to Moscow, where Mr. Rostropovich entered the Gnesin Institute. He made his debut at age 13, playing a Saint-Saëens Concerto in Slavyansk, Ukraine, and in 1943, when he was 16, he entered the Moscow Conservatory as a student of Semyon Kozolupov.
He also studied composition with Shostakovich, and continued to do so even after the Soviet authorities condemned both Shostakovich and Prokofiev for “formalist perversions and antidemocratic tendencies.” He later studied composition privately with Prokofiev, and although his compositions are not well known, they include two piano concertos, a string quartet and several solo piano works."
Read the complete article in the NYT.