Pages 82-85

by Farah Aliyeva

The 4th International Mstislav Rostropovich Festival

A great citizen of Baku - this is how Mstislav Rostropovich, the eminent violoncellist and conductor, is known in his native land. He so loved the city of his childhood that during the last years of his life he dreamt of organising music festivals here.

The maestro was already working on the festival concept, but he was not allowed the time to implement it. Mstislav Rostropovich passed away in March 2007. He bequeathed his dearest dream to his elder daughter Olga, who established the Mstislav Rostropovich Foundation under whose aegis the International Music Festival was introduced to Baku. In December 2007 the First International Rostropovich Festival, organised by the Mstislav Rostropovich Foundation, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, was held in Baku.

Olga Rostropovich remembered: “… the first festival was organized in the shortest possible time. People responded instantly. Yura Bashmet agreed without hesitation, Giya Kancheli composed a piece in remembrance of my father, Natasha Gutman arrived. Everything went off wonderfully well. Now the festival will be held annually”.

For four years the concerts of the Rostropovich Festival have been galas of great art. Performances by the Giuseppe Verdi Symphony Orchestra from Milan, the New Russia and Moscow Soloists orchestras, the English Chamber Orchestra, the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra and a whole cohort of musicians as eminent as Zubin Mehta, Eugene Kohn, Maxim Vengerov, Yuri Bashmet, Natalia Gutman, David Geringas, Pinchas Zukerman, Eliso Virsaladze, Christian Badea, Badri Maysuradze, as well as the young, but already noted Xavier Phillips, Boris Andrianov and Ray Chen, have all taken place in Baku.

The 4th International Mstislav Rostropovich Festival was held in Azerbaijan’s capital from 12-19 December. The opening ceremony took place in the hall of the Azerbaijan State Philharmonia. The Azerbaijan State Children’s and Youth Symphony Orchestra was afforded the honour of opening the festival. This was symbolic, as the founding of this remarkable orchestra originated with Rostropovich. On one of his last visits to Baku the great musician expressed the splendid idea of establishing a youth symphony orchestra in Azerbaijan. This wish was the starting point for the birth of the new ensemble of young musicians. Auditions for children were organized on the initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan. They were led by Teymur Goychayev, People’s Artist of the Republic, who was to become the orchestra’s artistic director and conductor.
Pinchas ZukermanPinchas Zukerman

12 December, the opening day, was a special day for Azerbaijan. It was observed by the whole country as a memorial day for national leader Heydar Aliyev, who shared a warm friendshi p with Mstislav Rostropovich. Heydar Aliyev initiated the great cellist’s return to Baku in 1997 and, as it were, rediscovered Rostropovich for Azerbaijan. As Rostropovich wrote: “Heydar Aliyev brought me back to Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan to my heart.”

The world famous Yury Bashmet and his Moscow Soloists chamber orchestra; one of Rostropovich’s favourite pupils, Natalia Gutman; pianists Eliso Virsaladze and Murad Adigozal-zadeh; violinist Yury Revich and conductors Rauf Abdullayev and Maxim Vengerov took part in the festival. Among the guests of honour was Irina Shostakovich, wife of Dmitry Shostakovich, who had wished to come to Baku for a long time. As she noted, Dmitry Dmitrievich loved Baku very much and the opening night of the Fifteenth Symphony, under the baton of Kirill Kondrashin, was in this remarkable city in 1972. After a gap of over 30 years, the Fifteenth Symphony was performed in the hall of the Philharmonia by the Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra, to Rauf Abdullayev’s interpretation.

The last two days of the festival featured the sound of one of the world’s best symphony orchestras, the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the renowned Zubin Mehta. Soloists in the performances were violinist Pinchas Zukerman, already familiar to the Baku audience, and the famous Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder.

However the especially memorable highlight of the festival was the participation of world cinema star and great French actor Gerard Depardieu, at the performance of Georges Bizet’s Carmen. He had showed great interest in the festival and in Azerbaijan and so it was remarkable that his first visit to our country coincided with this musical celebration. Before Carmen, which was performed as part of the festival by a troupe from the Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Centre, Depardieu read selected extracts from Prosper Merimee’s novella of the same name.

An enthusiastic reception was given to the opera, which was notable for the interesting directorial reading, set design and bright performance. The leading roles were played by soloists of the Opera Centre: Alina Shakirova (Carmen), Oleg Dolgov (Don Jose), Elchin Azizov (Escamillo) and Anastasia Privoznova (Micaela).
Rudolf BuchbinderRudolf Buchbinder

As noted by Olga Rostropovich, president of the Mstislav Rostropovich Foundation, “the Festival has the status of a world festival. It has achieved popularity among the world’s musicians. At last my father’s dream to make Baku one of the music capitals of the world has come true. And so, year by year, we extend the festival programme”.

Firanghiz Ali-Zadeh: “The purpose of this remarkable festival is to attract world famous musicians to the native land of Rostropovich. This has met with great success. I hope very much that in the future there will be momentous encounters with the world’s symphony orchestras”.

Farhad Badalbeyli: “I have heard a great many orchestras in my life and never cease to be surprised at hearing artistic perfection. And so this festival gives so much to everybody, both to lovers of music, and to musicians…”

The International Rostropovich Festival is the deepest tribute to, and celebration of, the greatest genius, a person who became a legend in his own lifetime.

About the author: Farah Shirmammad gizi Aliyeva is a professor and Doctor of Art Studies. The author of scientific research on the music of Azerbaijan, she is head of the Art Department of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Azerbaijan Republic.