Friday, May 11, 2007

Impossibility does not exist

At the FT, Andrew Clark makes Elizabeth Wilson's book Mstislav Rostropovich: The Legend of Class 19 sound absolutely fascinating:

What went on in Class 19 has long been the stuff of legend, thanks to the informal testimony of alumni - many of them now distinguished soloists. The publication of Elizabeth Wilson’s book is timely, not just for its detailed account of Rostropovich’s teaching methods, but as a reminder of what made him special. Much of it is cast in the form of a memoir - Wilson studied in Class 19 in the 1960s - but it should be required reading for every performer and music teacher, for it adds up to a manual of musical truth. Rostropovich’s most enduring legacy, it suggests, will be the philosophy of life and music he passed on, rather than the more immediate impact of his exuberant personality and performances.

His idea of education, we learn in an ”interlude” penned by Karine Georgian, ”involved seeing and influencing the whole personality [of the student]. He was preparing us for a concert career, and our whole attitude to life and our profession was important to him. When he said I hadn’t shed enough tears to play Brahms, he was also teaching me a deeper truth - that one must know how to absorb everything into oneself, and then filter [the music] through one’s own experience.”

As such, Class 19 was far more than a musical hothouse. Rostropovich was often absent or late. He could be cruel. But as many of the alumni aver, he provided food for thought that lasted a lifetime. What he wanted was, first, to instil the idea that the impossible did not exist, and second, that it was more important to convey a sense of the music’s emotional impulse, through mood, atmosphere and a wide range of tone colour, than to have a flawless technique and beautiful sound.


  1. His "emotional impulse" emphasis ties in with "career"-ism I think, emphasizing the whole artist. Laudiato!

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  2. Always i love the music of Mstislav Rostropovich,he is the man for all season.Once his teacher Dmitry Shostakovich said that,he was "an epoch in the art of the cello,". He died at the age of 80.
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