Composers / Witold Lutosławski / Persons catalog

Mścisław Rostropowicz

Mstislav Rostropovich (1927–2007) – Russian cellist, one of the greatest masters of his instrument, appeared also as a pianist and conductor. He was a defender of freedom of speech and democratic rights and fell under persecution by the Soviet regime after 1970 due to his support for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; he finally emigrated in 1974. In the years 1977-1994 he lead the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. He inspired the creation of over 100 compositions, including works of the leading twentieth-century composers.

He was the dedicatee of Witold Lutosławski's Cello Concerto. The composer reminisced: "In the early 60s or even earlier, Rostropovich wanted to persuade me to write a piece for him. He even went as far as to travel to see me. He said he would play for me the Suite written for him by Britten, which would perhaps encourage me to write a cello concerto. After listening to a recording of Paroles tissées he called out: "I'd like to play such music!". However, the Cello Concerto was created many years later, after the composer received a commission from the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1968. Dedicated to Rostropovich, the work received its premiere in London on October 14, 1970. The artist performed the Concerto many times, also under the baton of Lutosławski, but he did not receive permission for the planned appearance in Warsaw.

On Mstislav Rostropovich's invitation, in 1975 Witold Lutosławski composed the Sacher Variation, which he dedicated to Paul Sacher on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. Furthermore, on the commission of Rostropovich as conductor there came into being the Novelette, also dedicated to him. The latter piece received its premiere on January 29, 1980, in Washington, D.C., in a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Mstislav Rostropovich.