“I am a Bakuvian. Here I was born. Here live my friends. Baku is my homeland, Baku is my home…” M.Rostropovich

The VI Mstislav Rostropovich International Music Festival held this year from 3rd to 9th December in Baku had a fascinating musical programme. Held in commemoration of one of the great musicians of the contemporary period, the festival this time attracted world-renowned musicians and ensembles from Azerbaijan, Russia, Italy, the USA and the UK - Zubin Mehta, Enrico Dindo, Maxim Vengerov, Plamena Mangova, Sergei Krylov, Badri Maisuradze, Gianluca Marciano, Stuart Neill, Rauf Abdullayev, Fuad Ibrahimov, Elvin Hoca Ganiyev, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino symphonic orchestra, UK and Lithuanian chamber orchestras and the Uzeyir Hajibeyli Azerbaijan State Symphonic Orchestra. The festival was organized by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and supported by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.

As always, there was a busy, colourful programme. The Gala opening at the Magomayev Philharmonia heard a performance by the Uzeyir Hajibeyli State Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rauf Abdullayev. Works by Jean Sibelius and Gara Garayev were played superbly by an orchestra which is a mainstay of a number of international music events: the Gabala International Music Festival, Baku’s International Jazz Festival, the International Mugham Festival and others. In October the orchestra performed with the Cologne Orchestra at the Salle Pleyel concert hall in Paris; they played a programme of works by Azerbaijani and French composers.

The highlight of the festival would certainly be the performance given by the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra under the baton of Zubin Mehta. Closing the festival they played a programme which included the music of Giuseppe Verdi, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Antonin Dvorak. This orchestra is one of Italy’s most famous, highly regarded by international audiences and the most demanding of conductors. Zubin Mehta has been Principal Conductor of the Orchestra since 1985 and is the latest in a line of legendary conductors to hold this position. Supported by Edison, the Italian energy company, the Gala Closing is remembered as one of the best performances of the festival.

Before performing, Zubin Mehta, who was a great friend of Mstislav Rostropovich, and Olga Rostropovich, daughter of the great musician and Artistic Director of the Festival gave a small press conference, after which Visions of Azerbaijan managed to talk briefly with the Artistic Director:

- The festival is already in its 6th year. How significant is this?

- It is an important milestone; of course there would be no festival if not for the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. I must register my deep gratitude to the leadership of the foundation, in particular to Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, who has helped with the implementation of the concept from the very beginning. At a time when many countries are cutting budgets for cultural programmes due to the economic crisis, the government of Azerbaijan has helped us in every way and has contributed to a festival of the highest level.

- The festival is a joint project with the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. If we may speak figuratively, is it still a small child, a teenager or is it already standing on its own two feet?

- About its figurative age, I find it hard to say, but even though it is a relatively young festival, we have already formed our own audience, we have our own devotees. But we still have to grow ... I hope this is not the last festival.

- And what is different about this year´s festival compared with previous ones?

- This is probably a matter of dates ...This is an anniversary year - 15 years since the Rostropovich museum was launched, 85 years since his birth and 5 years from the date of his death...

- Besides Azerbaijan, in which countries have Rostropovich festivals been conducted?

- In addition to Baku, one is held annually in Moscow. We also conduct three-day mini festivals in Europe, in Switzerland, France, Germany ... But the first and the most valuable festival for us is certainly the one that is held in Baku, my father’s home.

-And what does the festival mean for you personally?

- For me this festival marks the return of my beloved father to his homeland every year. It means the love for Azerbaijan that he imparted to me and to all our family. For me it is a continuation of his life, his spirit that lives on in the music, about the love of your people.