Great communicator

1 апреля 2004 в 00:00, просмотров: 338
     BR: You’ve been together with Galina Pavlovna for more than 40 years. Hasn’t she ever got jealous of your fame, or lady admirers?
     – She sure has! Because she does love me. And I love her. My cello is my only paramour that Galina is not jealous of. And I absolutely can’t imagine living without both of them.
     
     BR: So, “like man, like wife”?
     – No, we are totally different.
     
     BR: You are famed for your practical jokes.
     – Oh, I love that! Before a jubilee of my friend Isaac Stern, I had received a phone call from San Francisco: “Could you possibly agree to play Saint-Saёns’s ‘Swan’ for Stern?” – “Why?” I enquired out of curiosity. “The actor Gregory Peck is going to read a narration made into Stern’s biography to the music of ‘Carnival of Animals’, so we also need ‘Swan’”. After a moment’s consideration, I replied: “I’ll come over if you call for a tailor for me in Washington who will make a tutu, size 43 ballet slippers and a leotard for me....” They went silent on the other end on the line, most probably thinking that I was out of my mind! However, the tailor did come and took my measurements. Then, I invited two ballerinas for consultation… According to my scenario, the first cello in the orchestra was to be imperceptibly withdrawn from stage. I asked the cellist: “When Gregory Peck starts his narration, pretend that you have pains in your stomach: go down on all fours and crawl off backstage”. My colleague did his act so realistically that immediately two frightened doctors from the audience came running to his aid. In the corner of the stage, they had fixed a box filled with colophony powder used by ballerinas for rubbing in their slippers’ soles before they perform. I came onstage facing the orchestra, with my back to the audience. Upon seeing my physiognomy and my exotic attire, the musicians roared with laughter – I had a diadem in my hair, makeup on my face, and artificial eyelashes as well. At the beginning, no laughter came from the audience. Everybody must have thought – “Well, she must be there for a reason – might be a friend of Stern’s, this old bag of a ballerina. So, it wouldn’t be nice to laugh.” Anyway, moving backward in this manner I made my way to the box, rubbed by slippers in it, sat down, took my cello, and started playing “Swan”. They say that Isaac found it so hilarious that he nearly laughed himself into a heart attack.
     
     BR: Your great-grandfather, Count Hannibal Rostropovich, was a Pole. What about you, do you consider yourself to be more of a Russian or a Pole?
     – These two origins find no conflict in me. Two bloods course through my veins, but all people are brothers to me. Therefore, I addressed the Polish: Love your Russian brothers – they suffered as much as you did, maybe even more so. No way does this mean that I called on you to love torturers and executioners. What I mean is love for normal people. Why did I hate the Communists so much? Because they did not allow my dearly loved teachers and senior friends, Prokofiev and Shostakovich – who were geniuses, let’s face it – to work. This is the way I am – to always tell the truth and have no fear of anyone. For the same reason did I stick up for Solzhenitsyn, as I could not stand injustice. Have never regretted that. Also, I do not consider myself to be an “Enemy of the People”, as I was called by the Communists. They stripped me of my citizenship for, as they formulated it, “damaging the prestige of the Soviet Union”. In other words, every movement of my cello bow or my baton they assumed to be causing damage to their prestige. Incidentally, Galina and I heard the news that our citizenships had been revoked, by pure chance – from a news broadcast when we were in Paris. That was on the 16th of March 1978. I’ll never forget that date! All that night, we didn’t get a wink of sleep – we received a shock of our lives. We were forcedly deprived of our homeland, my children and I. What right did they have to do that?! However, no matter what misfortunes befell me in my life, they eventually turned out to be for the better for my family.
     
     BR: Do you mean you are grateful to the Soviet authorities?
     – Who I am grateful to is my parent. My father was also a cellist. An absolutely outstanding one too – now I can see that very clearly. His life was hard, though. Sometimes, I have a feeling that he helps me, from somewhere up above, doing things he didn’t manage to do in his life. Only in recent years, when they started to declassify archives, I found out that my father had been arrested when the Red Army entered Voronezh. Someone must have blurted out that he was of noble ancestry.
     
     BR: Therefore, if it were not for the Bolsheviks, you would have been a count now, and lived in your family estate in suburban Warsaw, in Skotniki, or somewhere else in the West?.
     – And I do live in the West, as well as in the East, wherever my work and my family happen to be – in Washington, Paris, Geneva, Tokyo, Moscow. However, I do not consider myself to be a count. What sort of a count I would make! You must be kidding!
     
     BR: You are a wise person, so can you tell me why they hate talented and successful people so much over here – you too were hurt by our “free and democratic” press and you promised to give up performing in Russia?
     – Over here, they can’t come to terms with the fact that someone is happy. In Russia, a happy person brings about only one question – “Why him? Why not me?” Prokofiev might have lived longer, but they denied him a job, and they would not permit his works to be performed. I’ll never forget the time – it was during my stay at his dacha, in the summer of 1950 – when Sergey Sergeyevich said: “Slava, I have no more money for breakfast or for paying the cook.” So I went running to the Stalinist Union of Composers to get money for Prokofiev – this man of genius – to buy food.
     
     BR: Fortunately, you do not have such problems. But why is it that your creative and charitable activity appears to annoy many an individual in Russia?
     – As one philosopher put it, “What a Russian person needs is rather the absence of bondage than freedom”. In this country, they are not yet used to having respect for the person and his or her sovereignty. Anyone who feels free and independent happens to produce an annoying effect.
     
     BR: Slavery complex?
     – Might be so.
     
     BR: Why do you spend so much of your time on charity work?
     – Once, during my visit to the Pediatric Academy in Saint Petersburg, I was pushed into an operating-room when an open heart surgery for a four-year-old girl was in process. It was the first time that I’d ever seen a child’s heart – palpitating and unprotected. The operation was completed brilliantly by the surgeon. On the following day, I called him and, by the sound of his voice, understood that the girl had died. She could survive if they had a lung ventilation apparatus meant for children. I was feeling so dreadfully sorry for what had happened. I was thinking of what that little girl might have given to the world. Soon afterwards, I was performing in Japan, together with the conductor and my friend Seiji Ozawa, when Kobe was struck by a devastating earthquake that killed thousands of people. At the concert, I announced that my fee was to be used to help those who had suffered in the quake. When people from the Japanese Government came to me and asked whether they could be of any help to me, I asked them for a special children’s lung ventilation apparatus – so they sent this fantastic device, which could also be used for newborn children, to Saint Petersburg. Actually, on that very day, a four-year-old girl – who had fallen into water from a bridge – was taken to the Pediatric Academy. When rescued, the girl’s heart was no longer beating. The Japanese apparatus helped to resuscitate this little girl and – her heart did come back to life! This lesson was of tremendous significance to me. This story made a new man of me. A child’s life regained is more important to me than all my music.
     
     BR: Your talent for loving and being friends has become a legend...
     – I adore people! And I hope for my feeling to be reciprocated. There is nothing that can be more heartwarming to me than living among people. Everyone is like family to me. To be able to do something good for people brings me truly great joy. I am very proud of the fact that the first boy who was born in the new hospital at Vacha in the Nizhny Novgorod region, which was built with my assistance, was named after me, Slava. This clinic at Vacha is what Galina and I live for. Helping children is our deliberate choice, as they are the future of Russia. In the Pediatric Academy in Saint Petersburg, unique water-purification equipment was installed by our American friends, whom we told about their deplorable situation. Did you know that the faucet water they use in Saint Petersburg is tea-like in color?! And that is the sort of “drinking water” that is used by children with health problems! As to “our” water, it is good for producing medications.
     
     BR: How do you visualize Russia’s future?
     – I find it a sensible idea that humankind develops in a spiral-like fashion. At the moment, we are at its lowest circle, with lots of troubled waters around. But I still believe that Russia is in for a huge upswing. Living here is bound to become more decent than it appears to be nowadays. I’ll never forget what Pope John Paul II said during the audience Galina and I had with him in Vatican, after we had been deprived of our citizenship. What he said was something like this: “It is a thorny path that leads man to God. Now, you are halfway on that path to Him: not down below any more, but not yet with the Lord. Therefore, every step of yours has to be taken in accordance with your status and your conscience.” We always keep these words in mind – in the hour of need, they’ve always been supporting us.
     
     BR: You are a citizen of the world. Where do you feel at home?
     – You know, when you have a place to live in Washington, Lausanne, London, Paris, Helsinki, when you have many places to live, you have no home anywhere. I first had this feeling after I had been stripped of my citizenship. Now, the Earth is my home! And soon, all of us will be “earthlings”! (Rostropovich laughs mischievously, pointing his finger down.) This makes it possible for me to have a somewhat philosophical view upon life. In olden days, they traveled post to the countryside. If some Ivan wanted to visit his Lyuba in the neighboring village, he had to harness his horse in the morning, and it took him half a day to get there. Before yesterday, a Concorde would take its passengers from Paris to New York in three and a half hours. Once, in jest I wrote in my will to Vishnevskaya the following: “Should I die in Paris, take a private Concord immediately and fly to New York, together with my friends and my body”. I wanted to find myself in America two hours ahead of my obituary. (Laughs boisterously.)
     
     BR: In my view, all this “will” talk is a little bit too macabre.
     – Certainly, not! I got this habit of writing wills from Prokofiev. When I was twenty years old, he asked me: “Slava, do you have a will drawn up?” I laughed: “Sergey Sergeyevich, what are you taking about?! Isn’t it somewhat too early?” Prokofiev’s answer was this: “I wrote my first will when I was 16. Since then, I’ve been only refining it”.
     
     BR: Once you said: “Conscience is the most powerful driving force behind creative work”.
     – Only conscience gives you the feeling of joy and suffering. What makes a person suffer when he or she does the wrong thing? It is conscience where this suffering comes from – surely, if a person is conscientious. A true artist must know his mind both in time of tragedy and happiness.
     
     BR: How do you imagine your life without music?
     – I can’t imagine that at all. You can’t get used to the beautiful. I am happy that I am unable to get used to beauty. For instance, my wife is a beauty! We’ve been together for over 40 years, but my spirits are still running high and I still can’t get used to the idea that this really happened to me.
     
     BR: What else does Maestro Rostropovich dream of?
     – I am the happiest man on earth! What else can one possibly dream of! My wife is intelligent; I have two beautiful daughters: Olga and Yelena. I have six grandchildren. My concerts are scheduled until 2010. So I live my life according to that schedule. I haven’t been on vacation for about thirty years. Four years ago, I tried to have a rest in Crete. Oh, what a torment it was for me on that island! Never again shall I go there. However, for many a year I’ve been having this dream of getting into a car with Galina one fine day. I’d ask her: “Galina, where to?” In reply, I’d hear: “For now, go straight ahead…” And then she would say: “Shall we make a left, and pull over?” Hope to have some nice days like that sometime! I’d love to live through several days on total improvisation.
     


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