Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich, world-renowned cellist and conductor, has died. Rostropovich, born in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 1927, made his Russian debut at 13 and his American debut (at Carnegie Hall) in 1956. He leaves behind important recordings of composers ranging from Bach to Bartók (particularly noteworthy is his 1995 recording of the former’s cello suites), as well as a National Symphony Orchestra vastly improved by his 27-year tenure as its conductor. Rostropovich, famously, had his Soviet citizenship revoked in 1978, after an eight-year-long series of public skirmishes with the Brezhnev regime over the censorship and suppression of artists and intellectuals—particularly of Rostropovich’s friend Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The world’s loss of Rostropovich is a serious one, for music lovers and defenders of artistic and intellectual freedom alike.
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