One night in the mid-'50s a slightly portly young Russian named Mstislav Rostropovich carried his 18th-century Storione cello on stage and played his first recital in this city.
Last night, his daughter Olga, 20, carried that same instrument onto the stage of the Corcoran Gallery's recital hall, and played what was only the second solo recital of her career. Her performance was promising indeed.
As Corcoran president David Lloyd Kreeger said introducing the recital, "to bear the name Rostropovich under these circumstances is a heavy burden."
She bore it with grace. It was a deliberately low-key event: Neither her father nor her mother, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, was present; and the setting was intimate.
There was however, nothing compromising about the program. It was Francoer, Brahms, Schumann and Shostakovich - just the sort of concert her father plays.
At this point in her development, it can be said that Olga Rostropovich is careful about dynamics, and has excellent pitch, a reasonably even timbre through the whole range, and steady articulation. She was well up to the entire program - and the Brahms E minor sonata is a difficult test for any cellist. Her phrasing was passionate and even.
Occasionally the tone went a little thin. Sometimes, when moving from the top string to the bottom, she accidentally brushed the middle strings with the bow, and her pizzicati were blanketed by the piano (perhaps the fault of accompanist Alexander Piskunov).
Afterwards, she said she had been very nervous; "When you're out there without an orchestra, your mind can just go blank." In her debut recital two months ago in Vermont, she played under her mother's name instead of her father's. She asked how that was known, and was told that the source was her father. "Heavens," she said, "how did he know that? I didn't want him to know. I didn't want to damage the name Rostropovich in my first recital." She need not have worried.