On 27 March–4April, Moscow and St. Petersburg hosted the VIII Mstislav Rostropovich International Festival, established in 2010 to celebrate the memory of the superlative cellist and conductor, great citizen and public figure
Following the tradition, the Grand Hall of the Conservatoire became the main festival venue; however, this year the Festival expanded beyond Moscow: one of its concerts took place at the Grand Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonia.
The VIII Mstislav Rostropovich International Festival was definetely a priceless gift for the whole musical community to celebrate the Maestro's 90th birthday anniversary. Olga Rostropovich, Artistic Director of the Festival, managed to realize in its full the main idea behind this year programming: to bring together four countries – Russia, the United States, France and Japan, which took special place in both personal and artistic life of Mstislav Rostropovich.
On March 27, the birthday of the Maestro, the Festival opened with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra under Yuri Temirkanov performing Sibelius' Symphony No. 2 and Ravel's Ma mère l'Oye and Valse at the Grand Hall of the Conservatoire.
The Festival continued with the National Symphony Orchestra, led by Mstislav Rostropovich for more that 17 years, and back to Russia for the first time since 1993; it was with the NSO in the early 90's that the Maestro triumphantly returned to Russia with landmark concerts in Red Square and at the Grand Hall of the Conservatoire. At the Festival, the orchestra performed under its Music Director Christoph Eschenbach: on 29th March and 30th March in Moscow and on 31st March at the St. Petersburg Philharmonia. The NSO played Schubert's Symphony No. 9 on 29th March and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8 on 30th and 31st March. On 29th March the brilliant young cellist Alisa Weilerstein played with the orchestra Shostakovich's First Concerto, dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich, and Elgar's Cello Concerto on March 30th in Moscow and 31st March in St. Petersburg. All three performances opened with Old and Lost Rivers by contemporary American composer Tobias Picker.
On 2nd April the Festival boasted a concert by Maxim Vengerov, an internationally acclaimed violinist, winner of numerous prestigious international awards, including a Grammy Award, who played the whole Brahms' Violin Sonatas with the pianist Polina Osetinskaya. The concert ended with a touching musical offering: Maxim Vengerov and Polina Osetinskaya performed the famous Rachmaninov's Vocalise, a dedication to Galina Vishnevskaya and Mstislav Rostropovich.
The 4th April saw the solemn closing of the VIII Mstislav Rostropovich International Festival, with Russian and Japanese ensembles united at the Grand Hall of the Conservatoire: Yokohama Sinfonietta and the Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo, on their first visit to Russia, and the State Academic Symphony Orchestra “Evgeny Svetlanov” with the Yurlov Choir. The combined orchestra and choir conducted by Kazuki Yamada, successor to the great Seiji Ozawa., presented a programme of French music: the first part featured Debussy's Petite Suite and Fauré's Requiem with soprano Jenny Davier, baritone Rodion Pogossov and organist Motoko Murozumi; after the intermission the concert continued with two suites from Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé. The famous Ravel's Bolero was the brilliant final chord for both the concert and the Festival.
According to Olga Rostropovich, this year, despite the existing difficulties, the Festival however succeed to accomplish its purposes. The VIII Mstislav Rostropovich International Festival became the milestone of the anniversary celebrations that from now on will continue in Baku, the cities of the Volga region, Sochi and Orenburg.