REMINISCENCES AND VIGNETTES
OF INTERESTING ENCOUNTERS IN THE ARTS.
February 12, 1975: I’m sitting waiting in the back of Mstislav Rostropovich’s limo when he arrives in town for his recital this week, and as we drive to his downtown hotel he tells me he has decided he will go into exile rather than return to the Soviet Union when his current two-year international travel permit expires next year. I’m the first journalist he has spoken with this frankly. I have a world exclusive. The news desk is not particularly impressed, however, and the story doesn’t run until two days later: clearly, no one believes that someone so exalted could make such a world-shaking announcement in such a cultural backwater as Vancouver . Rostropovich tells me his troubles began five years ago when he came out in public support of Solzhenitsyn. He was banned from foreign travel for a year and his concerts and foreign appearances were severely curtailed after the ban expired. His was given permission last May to live abroad for two years, and he and his wife, Galina Vishnevskaya, and their children settled in London. But he tells me he has a packed engagement book until at least 1978, and he expects to stay until then. What happens if the authorities tell him he can’t stay beyond the May deadline next year? I get the famous Rostropovich shrug, the smile, the broken English: “You know. All world know.” Of course he’d like to go home: home is home. “I love my people and my country very much. I very love my fatherland. But I not want only lost my life. I want make concerts, conducting, make what I want in music. All these possibilities I have here.” He believes, he says, that the artist has a holy calling. “Religion and music are very close: both are for the spirit, not material.” He plays, he says, for everyone, and when he plays he feels not Russian but human. In music “there are no borders of language: through music comes love and understanding.” The world is gravitating, he says, to beauty—“after a fantastic jump to science, there is now a little balance to beauty, humanity.” He quotes Dostoyevsky: “The world will be saved by beauty. And I think music is a great part of beauty.”