Rostropovich Dead at 80
Conductor, cellist and champion of artistic freedom dies in his native Russia
By J. Kelman,  Newser User
Posted Apr 27, 2007 2:23 PM CDT

(Newser) – Cellist, conductor, and one-time Soviet gadfly Mstislav Rostropovich, who used to instruct his orchestras to "play as if you are being tickled in the sides," died today in Moscow. Rostropovich, whose 17-year-run as the head of the National Symphony Orchestra tranformed it from a middling ensemble to one of the world's premier orchestras, was 80.

"Slava"—as friends called him—was exiled from the U.S.S.R. in 1978 thanks to friendships with dissidents like Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. But his individualist, even instinctive, style played well with U.S. audiences, and earned him the admiration of many of the world's best composers, for whom he debuted over 70 new cello pieces.