Rostropovich was a magnificent life-force who penetrated the heart of every young cellist developing their skills and passion, whether you knew him or not. I remember hearing a recording of his Shostakovich Concerto No.1 when I was ten and knew immediately that this would be a singularly intense influence upon my own playing.
I was fortunate enough to meet him at Waterloo station whilst I stood staring at the timetable to Paris with cello strapped to my shoulders. He prodded me and exclaimed, “A colleague!” at which point I turned around and gasped. In one gesture of camaraderie he stripped away his superiority and demonstrated a very real human self and generous will in communication. We spent a good forty minutes chatting about repertoire, his inspirational wife (I was, at the time, hugely influenced by singers), works less known that I should get to know (like the second concerto by Shostakovich). On leaving, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of fulfilment and wholeness – his impact was as infectious off-stage as on.
Although I was truly inspired by many of the greats such as Fournier, Casals and Piatigorsky, it was Rostropovich that nurtured me to raise my game, concentrate on sound projection, legato, power, emotional depth and commitment. I remember performing a recital of Soviet music at Wigmore Hall and subsequently recorded sonatas by Kabalevsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Miaskovsky. This was at the height of my fever for his Art. And it still continues to this day, stoked by a discovery of his Russian live recordings from the Sixties which were unearthed and released as a box set – a tour de force if there ever was one. No one can escape his influence. We are inevitably entering a new era for cellists but he has laid such solid foundations that to shun his legacy is an impossibility. If there was a musical equivalent of a carbon footprint, Rostropovich has been a serious contributor to global warming!
Jamie Walton is a rising international soloist, increasingly recognised as a passionate musician with a voice of his own. His recent recording of the Saint-SaŽns cello concertos with the Philharmonia was internationally acclaimed and a growing discography includes a Russian CD with sonatas by Kabalevsky, Miaskovsky and Prokofiev. A disc of the Elgar and Miaskovsky cello concertos (Philharmonia Orchestra/Alexander Briger) will be released in October on Berlin Classics. For more information, please visit www.jamiewalton.com. Jamie plays on a 1712 Guarneri.