The admiration that Tim Page has for the National Symphony Orchestra's music director, Leonard Slatkin, is once again evident in Page's Aug. 29 Style article, "The Music Man." I do not argue with Page's basic contention that the 60-year-old Slatkin is arguably the most gifted conductor today. Most of us NSO musicians are in agreement on that point. But Page's uncalled-for and continuous need to bash the NSO's previous music director, Mstislav Rostropovich, irks me. His remark that Rostropovich's "off nights -- and there were a lot of them -- were pretty dismal" is not only misleading but dead wrong.

Rostropovich was a conductor who took apart every orchestral work he conducted in such a way that when the pieces were reassembled by week's end, something unique was going to be served. In 20 seasons as an NSO musician, never have I seen another conductor approach his job in music with more joy and respect for the task at hand, which included a need to reach his musicians. This is not only an admirable quality but one that steered him above everybody else in the conducting world. The Kennedy Center was fortunate to have him as the conductor of its orchestra for 17 seasons. Rostropovich, although not as technically gifted as other conductors but certainly capable with the baton, led with color, nuance, anger, determination and love. These factors make music come alive, and you knew that when Rostropovich was on the podium, special things were going to happen.

-- Steven Honigberg


The writer is a cellist with the National Symphony Orchestra.