When I lived in Dallas immediately after I graduated from college, I spent a couple of years working for a group of psychologists. They were all great people and it was a very good company to work for. One of the doctors had been a concert flautist before she changed direction and to become a therapist. On a couple of occasions she gave me her tickets to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra when she couldn’t make a performance. It was a rare treat. She had seats in the orchestra pit, about the tenth or twelfth row. I could never have afforded those tickets and would never have thought of spending what money I did have even on nose-bleed seats. (I did later because she’d sparked in me a desire for more.)
But the best performance I saw was one I attended with her. Her usual date (husband? friend? I’m not sure) couldn’t make it and so she invited me along. It was a benefit concert, for what cause I can’t recall. And these seats were front row, center.
Cellist Mstislav Rostropovich was the soloist and we were close enough that had I stood up and leaned forward just a little, I could have touched his foot.
I’ve been to the symphony many times since, but nothing has even come close to the experience I had that night. I can’t find words to describe it. I’ve never been so moved by music. Especially the piece he did as an encore. I no longer recall what it was, something by Dvor�k, I think; but Rostropovich had tears on his cheeks as he played with his eyes closed. And I’d be amazed if there had been an eye in the house that wasn’t at least a little tear blurred.
And thus when I flipped on the classical station in the car on Friday and at the end of a beautiful cello piece heard that the cellist, Rostropovich had died, I paused for a little, and said a prayer: May God in his merciful kindness grant him eternal peace.
From his obituary in the Washington Post:
“It is my aim, my destination in life to make the cello as beloved an instrument as the violin and piano,” Rostropovich liked to say, adding that in the making of music, emotion was more important than technique. “You must play for the love of music. Perfect technique is not as important as making music from the heart.”
But I knew that long before I read those words. He played from the heart and loved the music and his love was infectious.