Mstislav Rostropovich – globally recognized both for his formidable musical gifts and as an ardent advocate for human rights – was music director of the National Symphony Orchestra from 1977 until 1994. His tenure proved to be one of the most glittering periods in the life of the NSO thus far, and saw the introduction of the signature projects that remain an important part of the NSO's life to this day. One example is the John and June Hechinger Commissioning Fund for New Orchestral Works in 1982; this has led to the creation of more than 60 works by more than 50 American composers, including two Pulitzer-Prize winners. The American Residencies, which would take the NSO to 21 states, began during his time, with Alaska and Louisiana.
Touring was a prominent part of Rostropovich's tenure with the NSO: extensive travel around North and South America, four European Tours, the NSO's first visits to Asia, and, in 1990, Rostropovich's triumphant return, at the helm of the NSO, to Russia after 16 years in exile for defending human rights. The capstone, the 1993 Russian visit in which the NSO became the first orchestra ever to perform in Red Square, ensured that the Rostropovich/NSO partnership was one heard around the world. Rostropovich's time as music director had placed the NSO on the artistic map as never before.
Weilerstein plays Shostakovich / Schubert's Ninth Symphony
Thursday, March 9, 2017 - Saturday, March 11, 2017
Cellist Alisa Weilerstein returns to perform Shostakovich's First Cello Concerto, a work written for Slava himself. Led by NSO Music Director Christoph Eschenbach, the program also includes Schubert's Symphony No. 9, "Great," and Tobias Picker's Old and Lost Rivers.
Prokofiev's Piano Concerto / Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony
Thursday, April 6, 2017 - Saturday, April 8, 2017
James Conlon conducts three cherished works by long-time colleagues and collaborators of Slava's: Britten (Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes), Prokofiev (First Piano Concerto featuring the NSO debut of pianist Lise de la Salle), and Shostakovich (Symphony No. 5).
Moscow, March 29 & 30, 2017
St. Petersburg, March 31, 2017
Music Director Christoph Eschenbach leads the NSO on a 3-concert tour to Russia as part of the Rostropovich Festival's celebration of Slava at 90. These concerts mark the first time an American orchestra has participated in the festival. Three concerts—two in Moscow, one in St. Petersburg—feature repertoire from the Salute to Slava programs in Washington, including appearances by cellist Alisa Weilerstein in Elgar's Cello Concerto and Shostakovich's First Cello Concerto, as well as Schubert's Symphony No. 9, "Great;" Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8, and Tobias Picker's Old and Lost Rivers.
March 27, 1927 – Mstislav Rostropovich is born in Baku, Azerbaijan
1965 – Rostropovich makes his NSO debut as cellist.
Rostropovich with the NSO early in his tenure
1979 – Pope John Paul II visits President Jimmy Carter at the White House. Rostropovich and members of the National Symphony Orchestra perform on the Lawn.
1987 – Rostropovich's 60th birthday. First Lady Nancy Reagan conducts the NSO in "Happy Birthday."
1988 – President Ronald Reagan hosts a White House State Dinner for Mikhail Gorbachev. Rostropovich attends and greets the Soviet leader in the receiving line.
1990 – Return to Russia, first NSO Russian tour, marks Rostropovich's first visit to Russia since his exile in 1974.
1991 – Upon seeing news reports of tanks in the streets of Moscow, Rostropovich goes to Moscow and joins Boris Yeltsin in the Russian White House to show his support. The young man assigned to guard Rostropovich, exhausted, fell asleep on his shoulder, and Slava took over the boy's duties
Slava and the NSO visit Alaska, first of the American Residencies, which will eventually took the NSO to 21 states.
1992 – Rostropovich becomes a Kennedy Center Honoree
1993 – NSO and Rostropovich return to Russia; NSO becomes first orchestra ever to perform in Red Square on September 26, 1993.