Mstislav Rostropovich has died and the world goes on, although somewhat less than it was before. I’m trying to remember if he was one of the guest performers brought to town by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra in my youth. I used to usher at the performance halls downtown, and thereby saw lots of wonderful concerts, opera shows, Broadway musicals and ballet performances for free. If I did see him, it was obviously lost on me at the time; in retrospect, I guess there's a lot of things I did then I wish remembered better.
Rostropovich played cello, which is, I’m pretty sure, the preferred instrument of heaven. I can’t get my head around the concept that mere humans could have created such a sublime instrument, and then gone on to compose music suitable for it. It just seems beyond our puny reach. I never learned a stringed instrument, and it’s one of the few real regrets I have about my life. I like to think I’m not too old to learn cello, but at the same time, how could I possibly be worthy?
Here is a rather good story about Rostropovich, along with some comments by Lynn Harrell, another master of the cello. He made me weep openly at a concert a few years back.
Are there young people coming up in the ranks of classical performing artist to replace those whom we are losing? Pablo Casals is long gone, and now Rostropovich. Yo-Yo Ma and Lynn Harrell are both 50-something. Who is to follow?