Celebrated performer, brilliant conductor, sponsor and dedicatee of numerous contemporary works, Mstislav Rostropovich is a key figure of the 20th century not only for his musical genius but also for his political engagement on behalf of the freedom of expression of the Russian people.
To Mstislav Rostropovich. Your life in exile has made of you a living bridge between the art of Russia and that of the West. [...] The face of Russia today bears the scars left by communist violence and the current horrendous convulsions, but its soul remains in its culture. That is the mission to which you are devoted, armed with your indomitable bow. – Alexandre Soljenitsyne.
After years passed on good terms with the Soviet regime, treated as a privileged favorite, Rostropovich left his native Russia in 1974. His political positions and public support of the dissident Alexandre Soljenitsyne made him the target of a smear campaign and his concert career there abruptly ended. A trip that should have lasted only two years lasted sixteen… In 1978, he learned in the press that he had been stripped of his citizenship for “acts systematically showing prejudice against the prestige of the Soviet Union,” and became stateless. As the cellist put it himself, “it was the biggest shock of my life.” Already renowned the world over, he would soon become a legend.
Mstislav Rostropovich, The Indomitable Bow tells this unconventional story, unveiling rare and inspiring archival footage as well as excerpted interviews with his daughters, Olga and Elena Rostropovich, and his friends Natalia and Ignat Soljenitsyne, Marta Casals-Istomin, and even Guennadi Rojdestvensky.
Photo: Rostropovich and Prokofiev
English Chamber Orchestra (Aldeburgh, 1969-1970)
Portrait of the cellist, conductor, and defender of free speech