Recommended for all music collections. -- Larry Lipkis, Moravian College, PA Library Journal A definitive portrait of the master cellist certain to be greeted with a crescendo of applause. Publishers Weekly Comprehensive biography of the late cellist brings together personal anecdotes and important insights into the larger-than-life musician. Forecast Rich portrait of the artistic hothouse that encased Russia's postwar music world...Tale is lovingly told. Russian Life Will help readers understand his teaching methods and playing psychology. -- Graham Pellettieri Strings Readers will be persuaded that Mstislav Rostopovich was every bit as grand and wonderful and humane as [Wilson] portrays him. -- Michael Dirda Review Of Higher Education Loving biography of a warm, caring teacher, performer, and family man who will long be remembered for...his music. -- Alan Hirsch Booklist This is an extraordinary book about the musical and cultural environment in the Soviet Union that produced Mr. Rostropovich. -- Priscilla S. Taylor The Washington Times Part memoir, part history...has a researcher's diligence mixed with an unapologetic personal touch and an artist's idealism. -- Kenneth Young The Buffalo News A definitive and in-depth biography. Midwest Book Review A fitting tribute to the greatest cellist of his time. -- Pamela Margles The Whole Note, (Www.Thewholenote.Com) [Wilson] knows her music...This is an extraordinary book about the musical and cultural environment in the Soviet Union that produced Mr. Rostropovich ... [Wilson's] thorough research makes this biography an encyclopedia of an era. The Washington Times Wilson thoroughly examines Rostropovich's rapid rise as a performer and prize winner, his career as a teacher at the Moscow Conservatory where she was his student (1964-71), his association with many leading composers of his time and the resulting significant enlargement of the cello repertory, and his ardent defense of artistic and intellectual freedom...The book's strongest feature is the author's treatment of Rostropovich the teacher...Recommended. CHOICE, June 2008
Elizabeth Wilson studied at the Moscow State Conservatory with Mstislav Rostropovich between 1964 and 1971. She has also written Shostakovich: A Life Remembered and Jacqueline du Pre. She lives in Italy.
This book is part biography and part memoir about the life and career of the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. I grew up with Maestro Rostropovich as THE cellist, particularly with Russian music for the instrument, and collect many LP recordings of his performances. This book by Elizabeth Wilson (who was a student in the famous Class 19 during the late 1960's) focuses on Rostropovich's years in Russia until his exile in 1974. As with her prior books about Dmitri Shostakovich and Jacqueline du Pre this book is a labor of love.
I was familiar with Rostropovich's life as a Soviet artist and his relationships with Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Ms. Wilson's book filled in all of my knowledge gaps covering Rostropovich's early life and the early death of his father Leopold which forced the young cellist to teach to support his family. She follows his steady progress as a performer as his reputation builds. Eschewing a formal biography Ms. Wilson continues by relating Rostropovich at work with Prokofiev and Shostakovich. In the case of Prokofiev, Rostropovich was instrumental in the creation of the Sinfonia Concertante and the Cello Concertino. I enjoyed reading about Rostropovich's partnership with Benjamin Britten that led to the Cello Symphony and the Cello Suites. I gained some insight into Mr. Britten, particularly as a performer and how he stood by Rostropovich when the cellist had problems with the Soviet government.
The largest part of Ms. Wilson's book explores Rostropovich the teacher following this students as they are confronted and cajoled, learning as much about life as the cello from their professor. There are short chapters devoted to reminiscences by several Rostropovich students as they recount the trials and rewards that came from working with him. There is a wealth of information on performing and performance practice. I found some of the discussion a bit esoteric but I enjoyed learning about Rostropovich's approach to music: learning al there was about the entire work as well as your part in it.
The part of the book that was most poignant were the final chapters as Rostropovich comes to the aid of Alexander Solzhenitsyn giving him a place to live. The backlash by the Soviet government builds as Rostropovich is refused permission to travel and sees his performance schedule cut to nothing. If there was something that the agents of the government thought would irritate and humiliate Rostropovich it was done to him. Reading this part of the book one becomes angry and saddened that someone as principled as Rostropovich became the target of a campaign of government reprisal. I will always recall the image of Rostropovich leaving his home with a suitcase and two cellos with his dog accompanying him on the flight to London in first class.
As Ms. Wilson points out, to cover the years that Mstislav Rostropovich spent in outside his homeland, eventually stripped of his citizenship, is a separate story. She provides us a well written epilogue that takes us to his death a month after his 80th birthday. This book is a marvelous tribute to Mstislav Rostropovich that will even be a companion to his many recordings.
A rich insider portrait2008/10/18
Paul E. Richardson
The great cellist, conductor, teacher and humanist Mstislav Rostropovich died in 2007, just after he turned 80. Many of us knew only his second life - his artistic achievements in the West after his voluntary departure from the Soviet Union in 1974, his heroic defense of Solzhenitsyn that precipitated that departure, his impromptu performance before the crumbling Berlin Wall, his brave charge to Moscow in 1991, to stand with those who were defending the White House.
But to comprehend the second 40 years of Rostropovich's amazing life, one really needs to learn of the first 40 years, of his rise as a musical prodigy after the Second World War, of his victory in the Tchaikovsky Cello Competition, of his teaching at the Moscow Conservatory, of his friendships and students in the music world, of his tireless travels around the Soviet Union, sharing his cello music. That tale is lovingly told in this new biography by Rostropovich's student and friend, biographer Elizabeth Wilson.
Wilson weaves into her biographical tale her own experiences as well as firstperson interludes from students and colleagues. The result is a rich portrait of the artistic hothouse that encased Russia's postwar music world. (Reviewed in Russian Life)
Great, Great And more Great2011/2/8
Barry D. Johnson
There is not enough I can say good about this book. It's a must read for any Slava fan and any Cellist. Very detailed disucssions about the author's lessons with Slava, much to be learned about his teaching style, and his method. All of this sewn into a great biography which is a compelling read. If you are a cellist, there is much techical stuff, which will interest you. If you are just a music lover, or a fan of Slava, you will have a great biography with some pretty interesting side trips into music. Very well written. Any music lover will love this book.
The authoritative biography.2013/4/18
Raymond G. Mitchell
Since Elizabeth studied with Rostropovich, she has great insight into his teaching and influence on cellists around the world. She is as accomplished a writer as she is musician.
A 'must' for any music library2008/1/10
Midwest Book Review
Rostropovich died this year in Moscow at age eighty, having built his reputation as a cellist and conductor who also was an proponent of artistic freedom during the cold war. ROSTROPOVICH: THE MUSICAL LIFE OF THE GREAT CELLIST, TEACHER, AND LEGEND celebrates his life, both musical and political, and provides both an overview of the musician and memories of the many students he taught. Elizabeth Wilson was herself a former student of 'Slava' and provides here a definitive and in-depth biography which should be a 'must' for any music library covering classical music - and many a public lending library.