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Founded in 1923 by Sir Compton Mackenzie and Christopher Stone as ‘an organ of candid opinion for the numerous possessors of gramophones’

Rostropovich, and his towering musical legacy

There were two occasions when I was fortunate enough to interview Mstislav Rostropovich, only one of  which was in person. But both times I encountered a figure who, to employ a cliché, really was larger than life. It was as if he was bursting to communicate, to tell a story. In person, as in performer. The first time was to coincide with the release by BBC Legends of his now – and again, another cliché doesn’t seem hyperbolic – legendary performance of the Dvo∑ák Concerto from the 1968 Proms, a Czech work performed by Russian artists on the day the Soviet regime suppressed the Prague Spring. There are few more powerful examples of where music can make a statement more eloquently than words will allow.

the sheer number of masterpieces of, say, those of the piano, violin or voice. We could place the pioneers of the guitar repertoire – Julian Bream, John Williams an d others – in t he same category, for the same reason.

But it wasn’t just down to a dogged determination in pursuit of pieces. Rostropovich’s personality played a key role – that energy, that ability to inspire composers of the likes of Britten, Shostakovich and Prokofiev, that willingness to be a public figure. This latter point occurred to me when attending a recent press conference to launch Sir Simon Rattle’s opening season with the London Symphony Orchestra. Most orchestras hold season launches, but they’re generally attended by the music press. Because of Rattle, this one felt like a mainstream news conference. Few figures attain that status – Rostropovich did.

The second time was about Beethoven, not politics, to discuss the release of the Violin Concerto, him conducting, Maxim Vengerov the soloist. ‘He’s like a grandfather to me’ said Vengerov, a quiet, respectful presence in the room. Rostropovich was having none of it. ‘Not father, not grandfather, just brother!’ he said, as he held court with a level of enthusiasm and energy that wouldn’t have shamed someone half his age. We decided to focus, for our cover feature, on Rostropovich’s legacy in terms of repertoire. Many great musicians throughout history have, through their interpretations, influenced the way other artists approach certain repertoire. Few, however, have actually changed that repertoire quite so definitively. Partly, of course, this was because, prior to Rostropovich, the cello repertoire simply lacked

But back to Rostropovich and his greatest gift, which was, of course, his playing. He was, in short, a brilliant musician. Most readers will own many a Rostropovich recording, and for those who don’t – or indeed do – two new box-sets from labels with which he had strong links, Warner Classics (Teldec and EMI as then was) and Universal Classics (covering Philips, DG and Decca) offer an excellent way to explore his art. But perhaps, in the spirit of our feature, the best way to pay tribute to this towering figure is to listen not only to him, but to the likes of Steven Isserlis, Alisa Weilerstein, Alban Gerhardt and all those many stars of the cello who came after him, who take works that only exist because of Rostropovich, and make them speak afresh to a new generation. martin.cullingford@markallengroup.com

This month’s contributors

‘I encountered Rostrop ovich for the first time in 1987 and, for the next 20 years, he was one of my favourite eeting Sir Harriso n Birtwistle was ‘a real joy’, says Kate Molleson after interviewing the musicians,’ recalls Michael McManus , author of our cover feature. ‘Consequ ently, as I have put together this tribute to his formidable legacy, there have been many smiles and not a few tears.’

composer about his new Stravinsky recording for this issue. ‘He’s not on e to suffer fools gladly, but underneath the infamous gruffness he is charming, hilarious and full of spiri t.’

‘Gramophone’s faith in Benjamin Appl as our Y oung Artist of the Yea r is borne out in his first a lbum for Sony, “Heimat” ,’ writes our Editor-in-Chief James Jolly who interviewed the baritone for this issue. ‘Talking to him was to encounter a keen mind as well as a beautiful voice.’

THE REVIEWERS Andrew Achenbach • David Allen • Nalen Anthoni • Tim Ashley • Mike Ashman • Richard Bratby Edward Breen • Liam Cagney • Philip Clark • Alexand ra Coghlan • Rob Cowan (c onsultant reviewer) Jeremy Dibble • Peter Dickinson • Jed Distler • Adrian Edwards • Richard Fairman • David Fallows David Fanning • Andrew Farach-Colton • Iain Fenlon • Neil Fisher • Fabrice Fitch • Jonathan Freeman-Attwood Charlot te Gardner • Carolin e Gill • David Gutman • Christi an Hoskins • Lindsay Kemp • Philip Kennicott Richard Lawrence • Andrew Mellor • Kate Molleso n • Ivan Moody • B ryce Morriso n • Hannah N epil Jeremy Nicholas • Christo pher Nickol • Geoffrey Norris • Richard Osborne • Stephen Plaistow • Mark Pu llinger Peter Quantrill • Guy Rickard s • Malcolm Riley • Marc Rochest er • Patrick Rucker • Julie Anne Sad ie Edward Seckerson • Hugo Shi rley • Pwyll ap Siôn • Harriet Smith • David Patrick Stearns • David Threasher David Vickers • John Warrack • Richard Whitehouse • Arnold Whittall • Richard Wigmore • William Yeoman

Gramophone, which has been serving the classical music world since 1923, is first and foremost a monthly review magazine, delivered today in both print and digital formats. It boasts an eminent and knowledgeable panel of experts, which reviews the full range of classical music recordings. Its reviews are completely independent. In addition to reviews, its interviews and features help readers to explore in greater depth the recordings that the magazine covers, as well as offer insight into the work of composers and performers. It is the magazine for the classical record collector, as well as for the enthusiast starting a voyage of discovery.


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