Legendary Cellist Rostropovich Taken Ill

Legendary Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, 80, has been hospitalised after falling seriously ill, according to local media sources.

A representative for the Moscow opera school founded by Rostropovich’s wife, Galina Vishnevskaya, said he was in serious condition.

Earlier this month, the RIA Novosti news agency reported that Rostropovich was hospitalised at Moscow’s Blokhin cancer institute for a routine procedure but his usual spokeswoman, Nataliya Dollezhal, wouldn’t comment.

Since ’74, Rostropovich has become one of the leading conductors in the West.

He is music director the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., and a regular guest conductor for The Berlin Philharmonic, The Boston Symphony Orchestra, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Philharmonic.

Apart from his world fame as a cellist and a conductor, the Baku-born octogenarian also has a reputation of being something of a political animal.

Rostropovich and his family departed from the Soviet Union in 1974 in the midst of a controversy that attracted international attention.

From 1969 until he and his wife – an internationally known soprano – left Russia amid some controversy in 1974, they supported the banned novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn not only by allowing him to live in their dacha outside Moscow but by writing an open letter to Brezhnev protesting against Soviet restrictions on cultural freedom.

These actions resulted in the cancellation of concerts and foreign tours for Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya, a Soviet media blackout and the cessation of all recording projects.

In 1974 they were granted exit visas, effectively allowing them to go into exile. Four years later they were stripped of their Soviet citizenship, a decree that held until 1990.