Opera singer Galina Pavlovna Vishnevskaya and cellist.  Photo: Alexander Konkov/TASS

Opera singer Galina Pavlovna Vishnevskaya and cellist. Photo: Alexander Konkov/TASS

Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich was a very light, lively and emotional person. About him preserved a huge number of fables and anecdotes. Very often they seem incredible. But as soon as you decide that you have an obvious myth in front of you (like those that revolve around Ranevskaya in hundreds), it turns out that there are witnesses confirming that this is not fiction.

On the birthday of the great musician, we decided to recall just such stories.


One anecdote about Rostropovich was cited by Yuri Bashmet. Specifying that it “looks like a legend and is passed down from generation to generation of conservatives and musicians in general. (…) It is about two students who always appeared at lectures in a state of intoxication. It was noticed. (…) In the end, one student was sent to track them down, where and how they get drunk, to catch them at the crime scene. (…) Once he arrived an hour before the lectures began and lay in wait for them in the courtyard of the conservatory. Those two appeared from different sides of Herzen Street, greeted each other, entered the conservatory, stood for a while and went to the toilet. The “observer” caught them: they injected themselves with vodka through an enema – there was no smell, the alcohol was instantly absorbed, and they became drunk.

As a result, members of the Grand Council of Professors of the Moscow Conservatory condemned this outrage for several hours, saying that they should be expelled from the Komsomol, from the Conservatory … Rostropovich was then one of the youngest professors. Somewhere at the end of the meeting, he suddenly asked for the floor. He went to the pulpit and said:

– This, of course, is a disgrace. Complete disgrace. In these holy walls, this is happening! Shame! Shame! They must be expelled from the Komsomol, from the conservatory. Ugliness! I just can’t understand one thing – how did they drink brotherhood?

The meeting was cancelled.”

Mstislav Rostropovich

Mstislav Rostropovich



The love story of Mstislav Rostropovich and Galina Vishnevskaya began in Czechoslovakia, at the Prague Spring festival, where many Soviet artists performed. Prior to that, the cellist and the singer communicated only once. And in Prague, Rostropovich began to court Vishnevskaya in earnest. Of course, this was quite unusual: for example, he went into her room, started playing the piano, then jumped up and knelt in front of her: “Sorry, when we first met in Moscow, I noticed that you have very beautiful legs, and I wanted to kiss them!”

They walked around the city, and Vishnevskaya recalled: “I have never been so easy and simple with anyone”. Returning to the hotel, Vishnevskaya noticed pickles in one window, said that she loved them and regretted that the store was closed. At dinner at the hotel, Rostropovich told her jokes, and then he jumped up and rushed off somewhere. Vishnevskaya went to her room, opened the closet to change… “I jump away in fear: in the closet, like a white ghost, there is a huge crystal vase, and in it are lilies of the valley and pickles! Well, when did he have time ?!

Four days later, they had already decided to get married. (Later Rostropovich said that he “greatly regrets that he lost those four days.”) True, Vishnevskaya was married to Mark Rubin, director of the Leningrad Regional Operetta Theater. But then she said about her wife: “I, in general, was happy, until I realized that I treat him not as a husband, a man, but as a loving father. And then marital relations become unnatural.

And yet for Rubin, the message that his wife was leaving for another was a terrible blow. However, Vishnevskaya could no longer help herself. She asked her husband to go to the store for strawberries, and she herself wrote a letter asking him to forgive her, hastily threw a dressing gown and dresses into her suitcase, ran out of the apartment, got into a taxi (although it was only a few minutes to walk) and soon was at Rostropovich’s house. She was met by the mother and sister of her new husband. The news that Slava found a wife made them just go crazy …

Yes, and Vishnevskaya recalled: “I was so shocked by the turn of my fatethat for a week she was afraid to leave the house. Despite the fact that we were very happy, the feeling of guilt did not leave me for a long time …

Slava, in his new role as husband, was terribly funny. On the very first morning he appeared at breakfast in an immaculate jacket and tie, when I was already sitting at the table in a dressing gown. “Where are you going this early?” – “Nowhere, have breakfast with you …” – “Why are you so undressed?” – “Sergei Sergeevich Prokofiev never allowed himself to appear at the table in a dressing gown, and now I will also always be dressed in the morning.” (…) By the end of breakfast, he asked permission to take off his jacket – it was hot. The next day – is it possible to go to the table without a tie? And on the third day he was already sitting at the table in his shorts and was immensely happy.

Mstislav Rostropovich and Galina Vishnevskaya, March 1998

Mstislav Rostropovich and Galina Vishnevskaya, March 1998



When Vishnevskaya was pregnant with their first child, Rostropovich was on tour in London. But he called his wife every day: “Don’t you dare give birth without me!.. Wait, there are only a few days left, and I will fly!” She objected: it does not depend on me! Rostropovich exclaimed: “And you lie down and do not move. My mother carried me for ten months – perhaps that’s why I’m so smart and talented. Understood? And don’t you dare read scary books… Read Shakespeare’s sonnets!.. Do you hear me? And look only at all the beautiful!

And Vishnevskaya waited. Rostropovich came from London and showered her with gifts: “fantastic silks, shawls, perfumes and some other incredibly beautiful things that I did not have time to look at, and, finally, a luxurious fur coat fell out of there and fell on my knees.” And the next morning, Vishnevskaya was taken to the hospital. Galina Pavlovna wanted to name her daughter Ekaterina, but received a plaintive note from her husband: “I beg you not to do this. We can’t call her Ekaterina for serious technical reasons – after all, I don’t pronounce the letters “p”, and she will still tease me. Let’s call her Olga!»

Olga Rostropovich

Olga Rostropovich

A photo: Anatoly ZHDANOV


Olga Rostropovich recalled in an interview that her father was famous for his openness: he was ready to invite a stranger from the street to visit. Once the family was celebrating the New Year in St. Petersburg, Rostropovich came dressed “like a Napoleonic officer – in a green uniform with epaulettes, a three-cornered hat, with a sword … This is the uniform of an honorary member of the French Academy of Arts, to which the pope was elected shortly before.” Right in this outfit, he went to the liquor store for champagne.

And some man in line said to him: “Are you Rostropovich? Then come with me!” It turned out that he works as a taxi driver, a few years before that he gave a lift to Vishnevskaya, told his wife about it, but his wife did not believe it – she said that Vishnevskaya lives abroad. “And now you can imagine what will happen if I now tell my wife that I was standing in line with Rostropovich himself, and even in the uniform of Napoleon? Get kicked out of the house! Come with me, beside me, show yourself to my wife.”

And Rostropovich went to his communal apartment! The taxi driver’s wife fainted when she saw the legendary musician on the doorstep. She was brought to her senses, and Rostropovich immediately invited both of them to his place – to celebrate the New Year with their relatives …

Soviet cellist Rostropovich at the Edinburgh Festival in 1964.

Soviet cellist Rostropovich at the Edinburgh Festival in 1964.



This the story was told by director and actor Boris Lvovich. As you know, Rostropovich had a medal “For the development of virgin lands”, and he received it for good reason: at one time, as a soloist of the Moscow Philharmonic, he traveled to virgin lands, spoke to those who raised it. But one day there was no piano at the field camp. Rostropovich was amazed: “But how can I play without accompaniment?” But the composer Yan Frenkel was with him, who reassured him: “Don’t worry, Slavochka, I’m a good accordionist, I’ll accompany you – no one will notice!” They started performing. After some time, a hefty virgin land stood up at the end of the hall and went to the musicians. He came and said in a bass voice to Rostropovich: “Brother, don’t gundi – let me listen to the button accordion! ..”


In 1990, the 70th anniversary of the great violinist Isaac Stern, with whom Rostropovich was friends, was celebrated in San Francisco. He agreed to participate, but on the condition that no one except the organizers knew about it. But even the organizers were not aware of the surprise prepared by Rostropovich. He ordered ballet pointe shoes size 43made up secretly from everyone, agreed with the cellist that at some point he would pretend that he was ill, clutched his stomach and left the stage …

We started playing The Dying Swan by Saint-Saens. The famous actor Gregory Peck read the accompanying text. And here Rostropovich floated onto the stage, imitating Plisetskaya, in ballet costume, tutu and diadem. (He first went into the ladies’ room in this image to check how convincing he looks in the image of an elderly ballerina – none of the women recognized him). And he began to play “The Dying Swan”.

Then Rostropovich recalled: “I must say, I rarely had such an ovation as I received that evening. But Isaac was offended by me. Why? [Его жена] Vera Stern told me that he was laughing so hard that… he wet himself. This is first. And secondly, the next day in the New York Times and other newspapers there were no portraits of Isaac, but only photographs of me. In a word, it turned out that I accidentally took away his popularity. Of course, he was offended: he was 70 years old, and not his portrait is everywhere, but mine – in the image of the “Dying Swan” … “

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