on the record: April 2007 Archives

A recent inquiry from a British reporter on the subject of woman conductors started me thinking about that issue. There is no question that in the 43 years I've been involved with classical music I have seen a sea change in that area - perhaps as dramatic or more dramatic a change than I have seen in any other facet of the music business...

April 30, 2007 12:47 PM | | Comments (6)

I have been extraordinarily fortunate in my professional life - having the opportunity to work with some of the greatest musical artists of the world. As an orchestra administrator I have been privileged to work with four music directors and countless guest conductors. But one stands out as a gigantic human being who really was larger than life, and we have all lost him - Mstislav Rostropovich.

From 1981-1985, as Executive Director of the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, I came to know and love Slava - and his death on April 27, just past the age of 80, has taken from us a unique artist and a unique man. It is hard to know where to begin to assess his legacy.

As a musician one can talk about his passionate, deeply felt cello playing, his remarkably powerful and convincing conducting, particularly of the music of his friend and colleague Shostakovich. But one must, above all, remember the legacy that he has left all of us in the great expansion of the cello repertoire for which he was singlehandledly responsible. No other superstar in our time made the kind of effort that he did to commission and premiere major works for his instrument. A huge percentage of the important works for cello that have entered the repertoire were created because he brought them into being. Concertos and Sonatas of Shostakovich and Prokofiev, the Lutoslawski Concerto, the Dutilleux Concerto, the Penderecki Concerto, the Britten Cello Symphony and Cello Suites, the Concerto and a Sonata by Miaskovsky, Tenebrae by Arne Nordheim (a much under-rated work), over 200 major works in all. Every cellist in the world owes Slava a debt of gratitude for enriching their repertoire.

His conducting technique may have been rudimentary - but orchestras loved playing under him because the music just poured out of his soul. He was one of the favorite guest conductors of the Chicago Symphony - as one musician said to me, the clarity of the stick just doesn't matter with him - you know exactly what kind of sound he wants, what kind of effect he's after. He oozes music. When he was conducting the symphonies of Shostakovich, he was conducting music that he lived with even as it was being written - he lived next door to Shostakovich and the composer used to come over and bring his scores-in-progress to Rostropovich and the two of them would go over them.

Besides his cello and conducting abilities, he was a prodigious pianist - though almost exclusively heard accompanying his wife Galina Vishnevskaya as she sang the great Russian song repertoire. As a chamber music partner, just listen to his recording of the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata with his friend Benjamin Britten at the piano - here are two remarkable musicians conversing through music with each other.

But one also has to remember his human legacy. This is the man who, when the Soviets took away Solzhenetsyn's dascha, said to the great writer "you come live with us," thus destroying his own career in Russia, and eventually leading to his having to leave his country and being stripped of his citizenship. I'll never forget Slava saying to me in Washington "you know, Henrychka, they can take this Russian out of Russia, but they can never take Russia out of me." He lived for the fall of communism, and he saw it come and participated in the moment. He joined Boris Yeltsin in the famous stand against the communist attempt to re-take the government, he played at the Berlin wall after it fell.

He was a fighter for humanity, and, in his own oft-used phrase, "a soldier for music." I am going to miss him more than I can say - we're all going to miss him.

April 27, 2007 10:48 PM | | Comments (3)

If you want encouragement about the future of music, spend some time around youth orchestras. I had a wonderful experience on March 29-30 in Great Falls, Montana. For 2 one-week residencies every year, the extraordinarily generous violinist Midori immerses herself in a small community (for which she dramatically reduces her fee, by the way), performing on its orchestra's subscription concert, and working with that orchestra's affiliated youth orchestra. She also visits schools and coaches chamber music, spending so much time with so many young musicians that one feels there must be two of her...

April 12, 2007 11:48 AM | | Comments (4)

An interesting development seems to me to be bubbling up in the world of symphony orchestras over the past five years or so. It may even have begun earlier - movements of this nature start quietly in one place, and then spread and suddenly come onto one's radar. The development is a re-examination of the issue of ticket prices to symphony concerts, a change in attitude about price elasticity...

April 2, 2007 9:28 AM | | Comments (4)


About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by on the record in April 2007.

on the record: March 2007 is the previous archive.

on the record: May 2007 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads

AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
State of the Art
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
The Unanswered Question
Joe Horowitz on music

Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.