LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL Archives

CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL@COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL  December 2008

CLASSICAL December 2008

Subject:

Rostropovich in Class

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 1 Dec 2008 15:11:50 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (83 lines)

Rostropovich: The Musical Life of the Great Cellist, Teacher and Legend

Elizabeth Wilson
Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. 2008.
ISBN-10: 1566637767
ISBN-13: 9781566637763

Summary for the Busy Executive: Solid biography, enriched by first-hand
reminiscences.

Elizabeth Wilson, a British subject and daughter of the British
ambassador to Moscow, studied cello with Rostropovich at the Moscow
Conservatory from 1964-1971.  Among her classmates, one finds Jacqueline
du Pre, Mischa Maisky, Natalya Gutman, Stanislav Appolin, Ivan Monighetti,
and Moray Welsh.  Wilson has also written books on both Jacqueline du
Pre and Shostakovich and appears as cellist on ECM's CD of Arvo Paert's
Passio.

This isn't a full biography, in the sense that Galina Vishnevskaya's
autobiography is.  We get a few details about Rostropovich's family, but
Wilson primarily aims to present Rostropovich the teacher - a wise choice,
since that Rostropovich she undoubtedly knew best.  She admirably keeps
herself as much in the background as she can and affords generous space
to the reminiscences of others.  Her research is diligent and impeccable,
and she has gone through many official documents as well as through the
cellist's (and his wife's) personal papers.

For me, Rostropovich remains a mystery, despite Wilson. I glimpsed much
more of the man in Vishnevskaya's book, but she had a tremendous advantage.
This book portrays a "public" Rostropovich, the man of vast reserves of
mental and physical stamina, phenomenal memory, and supreme musicianship,
the great teacher.  He learned difficult new concertos in a few days,
and not just the cello part, either.  He would set similar tasks for his
students and expected them not only to play from memory, but to know
what the oboe played in measures so-and-so.  He would throw difficult
challenges at them while they played ("Play the movement a half-tone
lower") and required them to cope.  He seldom taught one-on-one, and his
open classroom encouraged other musicians to sit in.  If nothing else,
his students were accustomed to playing for a roomful of critical ears.

Some of this cello "boot camp" mentality I suspect came out of the Soviet
system of competitions.  If you could survive Rostropovich's class, the
Tchaikovsky or All-Union was, comparatively, a piece of cake.  Yet his
teaching persona wasn't that of a drill sergeant.  He invited his students
to explore with him, often assigning students the same concerto he was
currently learning.  He expected consummate professionalism, and he acted
as a friend (when he first started teaching, in his teens, some of his
pupils were older than he was) and guide.  In a certain sense, Rostropovich
didn't teach cello, or at least not the mechanics of playing, although
he would suggest certain things to each player.  Technique as such didn't
interest him.  He assumed you had it.  If you didn't, you worked with
his assistant until you came up to the mark.  He never started with the
fingers or the bow but with a conception of the appropriate sound for
the passage.  He taught music and musicianship, how to listen, how to
analyze, how to connect with the spirit of a work. He emphasized the
overall arc of a score and of finding your place in it.  Because he was
a great musician, a great teacher, and a Mensch besides, he not only
gained the love and loyalty of his students, but produced a lot of
outstanding cellists.

What most impressed me about Rostropovich this time around was his guile
in handling the Soviet bureaucracy.  He kept playing "chicken" with the
bureaucrats as he stood by Prokofiev and Shostakovich, wagering his
prestige and accomplishment against Party vindictiveness and, in some
cases, outright terror.  In the end, of course, he lost, but he had a
remarkably long run.  His personal charm (and courage) as well as an
army of prestigious foreign friends undoubtedly helped.

To Wilson's enormous credit, this book could have sprawled, and it
doesn't.  She not only writes very well, she develops large themes across
the chapters.  Her decision to give over major parts of the book to some
of her fellow students helps us see this outgoing, yet enigmatic figure
from different perspectives.  This isn't "Wilson's Rostropovich," at
least not entirely, and that's all to the good.  All in all, a fine
picture of one of the great figures of his time, and not just in music.

Steve Schwartz

             ***********************************************
The CLASSICAL mailing list is powered by L-Soft's renowned LISTSERV(R)
list management software together with L-Soft's HDMail High Deliverability
Mailer for reliable, lightning fast mail delivery.  For more information,
go to:  http://www.lsoft.com/LISTSERV-powered.html

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
July 1997

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager