Mstislav Rostropovich

Living a life as bold as his cello technique, Mstislav Rostropovich has had a vast impact on the world of 20th-century classical music. Born to musical parents on March 27, 1927, in Baku, U.S.S.R., Rostropovich began to play cello at age 4. After attending the Moscow Conservatory, he became the secretary to composer Sergei Prokofiev. Rostropovich's ability to evoke clear, strong tones in extreme registers inspired many composers, including Dmitri Shostakovich, Benjamin Britten and Leonard Bernstein. The cellist angered the president of the Soviet Union when he met, fell in love with and married the soprano Galina Vishnevskaya within the space of a few days in Prague. President Bulganin, who had also been in love with her, attempted to cancel the cellist's tour of the West in 1956. The jealous leader was unsuccessful, and Rostropovich went on to dazzle critics in London and New York. The musician angered his government in 1970, when he wrote a public letter in support of dissident novelist Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. For four years his life was controlled and limited by the government. In 1974 he and his family were granted leave and the musician lived in exile, with his Soviet citizenship stripped, until Mikhail Gorbachev instituted more-open policies in 1990. Up until that time and continuing to this day, Rostropovich has continued to record and perform cello brilliantly and has also achieved great success as a symphonic conductor.

Other birth anniversaries for March 27 include Richard Hayman, 1920; Paul-Marie-Theodore-Vincent D'Indy, 1850; Ferde Ferdinand Rudolph von Grofe, 1892.