Rostropovich in Satisfactory Condition

The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 7, 2007; 8:54 AM

MOSCOW -- Cellist-conductor Mstislav Rostropovich was in satisfactory condition Wednesday at a hospital and improving, his spokeswoman said.

The renowned 79-year-old musician was taken to a Moscow hospital because of an unspecified illness and was visited Tuesday by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"He has gotten a bit sick but he will be OK," said spokeswoman Natalia Dollezhal, who added that Rostropovich's condition was improving.

"He is getting ready for his anniversary," she said, declining to elaborate or provide further details.

Rostropovich, one of the world's greatest cellists and a human rights advocate, will turn 80 in late March and a big celebration is being prepared, according to his managers.

On Tuesday, Rostropovich's manager in New York said the cellist was hospitalized last week in Paris, where he maintains a residence, and then decided to return to Moscow.

"It does not look good," said Ronald Wilford, chairman of Columbia Artist Management Inc. and Rostropovich's manager for 35 years.

Rostropovich went into exile from the Soviet Union with his family in 1974 after housing dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn for four years.

After going into exile, the Soviets stripped him of his citizenship.

When hardline communists tried to overthrow then-President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, Rostropovich rushed to the Russian parliament building to oppose the coup.

Three years after his exile, he became music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington. He held that the position until 1994 and retains the title conductor laureate.

Rostropovich developed close musical relationships with three of the mid-20th century's leading composers _ Sergei Prokofiev, Benjamin Britten and Dmitri Shostakovich, his teacher. He commissioned dozens of works for cello from them and others.

Rostropovich had an operation in the fall, but weeks later conducted two concerts in Japan celebrating the 100th anniversary of Shostakovich, Wilford said.


Associated Press Writer Martin Steinberg in New York contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Associated Press