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When renowned cellist Mstislav Rostropovich died less than a year ago at the age of eighty, the world lost not only an extraordinary musician but an accomplished conductor, an outsize personality, and a courageous human being. "It is not an exaggeration to say that the history of the cello in the twentieth century would be unthinkable without the name of Mstislav Rostropovich," writes Elizabeth Wilson. "He has seemed to me like a personification of the cello itself." Ms. Wilson, a former student of "Slava" and the acclaimed biographer of both Shostakovich and Jacqueline du Pré, has written the definitive biography of the master. Rostropovich teems with entertaining anecdotes and therefore brings the reader as close as one can get to the method and psychology of Rostropovich's playing and teaching.
London-based cellist Wilson, author of Shostakovichand Jacqueline du Pré, studied with acclaimed cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007) at the Moscow State Conservatory from 1964 to 1971. Noting that the Russian-born Rostropovich dominated the international concert scene for more than half a century, she adds, "For nearly as long as this, he has seemed to me like a personification of the cello itself." Her key source is Rostropovich, as she interviewed him in nine cities across Europe over a span of 10 years. Writing with an exacting precision and exhaustive research, she has succeeded in documenting all aspects of his life as a musician and teacher in meticulous detail, taking the reader on a soaring journey that highlights his days with Britten, du Pré ("a voyage of discovery by equal masters, an inspired dialogue between two extraordinary artists"), Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Other chapters cover his influence and teaching methods and include an insightful analysis of the "metaphysical aspect of sound" in his music. With arpeggios of anecdotes punctuating her personal memories, Wilson has composed a symphony of sentences, a definitive portrait of the master cellist certain to be greeted with a crescendo of applause from both book lovers and music lovers. 40 b&w photos. (Jan. 4)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Mstislav Rostropovich, a legendary musician of the 20th century, died just a month after the English edition of this book was published in April 2007. Wilson, a British author and former student of Rostropovich, gained access to a great deal of archival information about his years as a faculty member at the Moscow State Conservatory. The book proceeds chronologically through Rostropovich's life and career, with several interpolated chapters devoted to reminiscences from other former pupils. Wilson explores Rostropovich's teaching philosophies and methods and details his warm relationships with several leading composers of the day, notably Benjamin Britten and Dmitry Shostakovich. Unfortunately, Wilson ends her narrative in 1974, the year of Rostropovich's forced departure from the Soviet Union. She acknowledges that a study of the remaining 33 years of his life-during which he was principal conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC, and taught and performed around the globe-could fill several volumes, and one hopes that she will rise to the challenge of completing the biography of this great musician, humanist, and pedagog. Recommended for all music collections.