On May 27, 1999, Mstislav Rostropovich and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra launched a three-week festival celebrating the music of Dmitri Shostakovich with a concert that included the First Symphony along with arias and interludes from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk with soprano Olga Guriakowa.
Interviewed for the Orchestra’s program book, Rostropovich commented, “Shostakovich’s world is our world. For many decades my own life was inextricably part of that world, and has continued to be so, even now. To have lived at the same time as Shostakovich is a source of great joy. To have been invited in his creative life has been an immense responsibility. And to play his music has been the greatest happiness.”
Over the course of the festival, Rostropovich conducted four more of the composer’s symphonies: nos. 10, 11, 12, and 13 with bass Sergei Aleksashkin and men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. He also included a suite from the incidental music to the film Hamlet, the First Piano Concerto with Constantin Lifschitz and principal trumpet Adolph Herseth, and the Violin Concerto with Maxim Vengerov. In addition, Rostropovich conducted the composer’s arrangement of Schumann’s Cello Concerto with Enrico Dindo and Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death with contralto Larissa Diadkova. Finally, he performed as soloist in the First Cello Concerto—a work written especially for him—led by associate conductor William Eddins.
Rostropovich first appeared as soloist with the Orchestra on December 9, 10, and 11, 1965, in Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with Georg Solti—in his Orchestra Hall debut—conducting. He first appeared as conductor with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival on August 14, 1975, leading Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini; arias from Puccini’s operas with his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya; and Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony. Rostropovich first conducted at Orchestra Hall on the Orchestra’s gala centennial concert on October 6, 1990, leading the last movement of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto with András Schiff as soloist.
Image above: Rostropovich leading the Orchestra on May 27, 1999 (Dan Rest photo)
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