He’s always been one of my role models and heroes. His collaborations with Britten and Prokofiev and Shostakovich resulted in some of the best cello music ever written. I had the picture of him playing at the fall of the Berlin Wall hanging in my room.
In 1993 (when he was 66 years old!), I was lucky enough to see him play two big concerti in the same program with the London Symphony Orchestra. I was in London for the semester, and I was taking lessons at the Royal College of Music. I had a lesson earlier in the day and told my teacher I was going to see Rostropovich play the Britten Cello Symphony that evening. I was more than a little shocked with his reply: he had studied with Rostropovich, and for the English premiere of the Cello Symphony at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1964, he was playing in the orchestra, and was asked to go sit in the audience and listen for balance.
So today I’m listening to his recordings of the Bach Suites, and the Britten Suites, and Britten’s Cello Symphony, and Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto. Maybe I’ll even get out my own cello and annoy the neighbors.