The cellist of the 20th century? Hands down: Rostropovich. He was also a respected conductor, fine pianist and indefatigable fighter for his fellow Russians amidst the Soviet regime-but it's his cello mastery that's on grand display here. Both versions of the Brahms Double Concerto made with Oistrakh & Szell in '69 and Perlman & Haitink in '79 join the Dvorak Concerto with Boult in '57 and Giulini in '77; the Saint-Saens Concerto No. 1 with Sargent in '56 and Giulini in '77; the Bach Cello Suites (on CD and DVD); 13 CDs of The Russian Years (which he brought with him to EMI); a wonderful documentary DVD, and much more!
About the Artist
Mstislav Rostropovich was born on March 27, 1927, and died from cancer a month after his 80th birthday. He was without a shadow of a doubt the leading cellist of the 20th century, not to mention an excellent conductor and piano accompanist to his wife, the soprano Galina Vishnevskaya. But what set him even further apart was his deep commitment to humanity, his dedication to the people of his native Russia, and his courageous stand against the Soviet empire (his support of dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn and others led him to have his citizenship revoked by the Communist regime).
The remarkable enthusiasm and virtuosity with which "Slava" played inspired numerous composers to write for him. He reserved his highest praise for composers Sergei Prokofiev, who died on the same day as Stalin Mar 5, 1953), Dmitri Shostakovich (died Aug 9, 1975), and Benjamin Britten (died Dec 4, 1976). Both Rostropovich and Shostakovich had lost their fathers while teenagers, so when Shostakovich became his teacher he was more of a surrogate father, and you may imagine his anguish at not being able to return to Moscow for the funeral (having been stripped of his citizenship); it was thus at Britten's funeral service that he could give vent to his sadness at the loss of both great friends.