Rostropovich: The Musical Life of the Great Cellist, Teacher, and Legend Hardcover – Nov 5 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
London-based cellist Wilson, author of Shostakovich and Jacqueline du Pré, studied with acclaimed cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich (1927–2007) at the Moscow State Conservatory from 1964 to 1971. Noting that the Russian-born Rostropovich dominated the international concert scene for more than half a century, she adds, For nearly as long as this, he has seemed to me like a personification of the cello itself. Her key source is Rostropovich, as she interviewed him in nine cities across Europe over a span of 10 years. Writing with an exacting precision and exhaustive research, she has succeeded in documenting all aspects of his life as a musician and teacher in meticulous detail, taking the reader on a soaring journey that highlights his days with Britten, du Pré (a voyage of discovery by equal masters, an inspired dialogue between two extraordinary artists), Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Other chapters cover his influence and teaching methods and include an insightful analysis of the metaphysical aspect of sound in his music. With arpeggios of anecdotes punctuating her personal memories, Wilson has composed a symphony of sentences, a definitive portrait of the master cellist certain to be greeted with a crescendo of applause from both book lovers and music lovers. 40 b&w photos. (Jan. 4)
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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 The 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)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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)
She is as accomplished a writer as she is musician.
Diane C. Donovan