On April 27th, Mstislav Rostropovich died. He was considered one of the all time great cellists in the world. His life was remarkable as an artist who impacted his culture. He was an outspoken critic of the policies and practices of the former Soviet Union.
After providing refuge to the dissident, Aleksandr Solzhenistyn, he was denied a travel visa and eventually stripped of his citizenship. A nice review of his life can be read here.
Having learned much from Russian literature and art, I have admired his life and work. Sometime around the year 2000, I had the privilege of meeting Rostropovich. He was a guest in the hotel in which I was working at the time. I remember assisting him in settling into the hotel. What really struck me was that his only request was that I help him locate a place to practice. Here was a man who was a master of his instrument. Yet within minutes of checking into a hotel, he was practicing the intrument that he had mastered. He did not ask for anything elaborate. He only wanted a single chair on which to sit. He was kind, considerate and humble. As he began to practice, I stood outside of the meeting room and listened. My own private concert.