Why VIII Rostropovich Festival is so important for Baku?

By: Bartosh Mendik

Any person who appreciates music undoubtedly is familiar with Mstislav Rostropovich. The same in Poland, he is widely known as the most outstanding cellist of the twentieth century. I actually attended several concerts devoted to this artist, but never have I heard that he was born in Baku.

Three weeks into my visit in Azerbaijan I learned that Baku had the ambition of becoming a center of transport and trade – all around Baku ambitioned to become an important and valuable European city.

This process has been achieved gradually and so far has gone very positively. I can see that Baku is actively fighting for achieving worldwide recognition by holding prestigious international and regional events — winning the Eurovision Song Contest or hosting the first ever European Games are the best examples of such milestones. This means that the city must be attractive for not just its residents, but as well as businessmen and tourists. A country with international dreams Baku has to learn to cater to all: artists, sportsmen, scientists, entrepreneurs and so on.

Every major cultural city in the world has its own virtuoso who becomes a “showcase” of the city. They become the cornerstone for a whole range of cultural activities that could fame Azerbaijan’s good name around the world. The Easter Festival of Penderecki in Warsaw and the Salzburg Festival are good examples on how cities have become more and more popular across the world.

While in Poland I never heard about Mstislav Rostropovich’s connection with Azerbaijan. When someone speaks about this man, he or she usually refers to him as a “Russian” or “Soviet” musician. And of course it is all true since his ancestry is rooted partly at least in Russia.

This genius in music was the son of cellist Leopold Rostropovich, and the great-grandson of Hannibal Rostropovich – a Polish landowner from Skotniki. The family carried the coat of arms of Bogoria.

At the opening of the festival I learned that he has born in Baku, and that his relationship with Azerbaijan remained strong until his passing. The daughter of the virtuoso was present in Baku to honor the memory of her dear father. Mrs. Olga Rostropovich assured the audience of her father’s love for his native city – Baku. It was he, who laid the foundations for the International Music Festival to be regularly held in Baku. The tradition was created by him in 2006 with the organization of the Festival in celebration of the centenary of Dmitri Shostakovich’s birth” she noted. So the most important thing for me is that he felt an inherent part of Baku and Azerbaijan and therefore we should remember him as he wished – a son of Baku and a son of Azerbaijan.

It is well known that Mstisław Rostropovich was considered one of the greatest contemporary cello virtuosos of his time. In his extensive repertoire he took into account the music of the twentieth century. As a conductor he led symphony orchestras and opera all over the world. He collaborated with the most outstanding composers of the twentieth century. Many of them have written works especially for him; among them: Witold Lutoslawski (Cello Concerto), Dmitri Shostakovich (two concerts cello), Sergei Prokofiev (Cello Concerto, Sonata for Cello and Symphony-Concerto), Benjamin Britten (Symphony for Cello and Orchestra, Cello Sonata and three suites). In 1984 he received a Grammy Award.

His popularity around the world and the fact that his daughter has been involved in making this festival more and more visible on the musical map of the world is of great important.

I am also convinced that the citizens of Baku strongly deserved such a prestigious musical event on such a high international level to be held on in their city. I see several reasons why it is so important. Each and every of the arguments I will make I see on the same ladder of importance.

Every man, every nation and every state want to develop their concept of cultural diversity. This cultural diversity decides on the identity of every man and nation. This movement drives the life of individuals and people in general It is said that “life is a movement”. The same happens with culture, if there is no life in them – it is dying.

Secondly cultural transmission is associated with the knowledge of their own history and their own identity. Without this knowledge, there is no chance for normal development or normal life. They are strictly connected and without each other none of them could exist. The state ought to develop on such intra and inter-connectivity to become whole.

Moreover the state has the obligation to defend every cultural heritage. That’s how the world is structured. A lack of knowledge about oneself, the rejection of self-knowledge, or worse – recognition for someone who is not knowledgeable, equates to cultural suicide. A lack of knowledge makes a man a naive mechanism that is used for the purposes of strangers.

In the end if a people forget who they are by abandoning themselves to the control of others, while caring little for their own history will find themselves the mercenaries of a people they cannot understand and cannot connect with through their own lack of identity.

Another very sensitive area is the intellectual generational transfer. The transfer of knowledge and culture is absolutely key to one people’s historic survival in the sense that the intellectual wealth of a people needs to be passed on to every generation, enriched and more vibrant for any meaningful future to become possible.

Therefore I appreciate Azerbaijan’s efforts in preserving and celebrating its culture and history — the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Azerbaijani Ministry of Tourism and Culture and Mstislav Rostropovich Foundation have exerted tremendous efforts in understanding the validity of culture.

With this in mind I decided to see how Azerbaijan cares about the memory of one of the greatest musicians of the twentieth century.

I should note that Azerbaijan Philharmonic passed the exam very well. Although many important people attended the event, opening addresses were kept short and to the point, thus allowing all those in attendance to enjoy in the music.

The second thing that I liked was the choice of repertoire. The choices in music allowed all to enjoy in their own taste and preferences, thus making this experience universal, yet personal.

The choice in music also allowed the audience to appreciate the breadth of Baku’s musical talents – the conductor’s musical prouesse, as well as the orchestra and choir exceptional talent. All was perfection!

Following this experience I can say without so much as the shadow of a doubt that Baku is a city worth visiting.

SOURCE: Azer News