Tonight, he has died.
I’m nowhere near qualified to comment, but the passing of his huge personality and his magical ability to coax such amazing sounds from his cello, like no other, has brought me to a stop.
I’ve just been listening to a programme on BBC Radio 3, where Sean Rafferty led an hour long tribute to the man. I have to say, in defence of a charge that nowadays Britain is sometimes losing the plot a bit, that this programme, which goes out from Monday to Friday, for two hours from 5pm until 7pm, is an absolute beacon of excellence. I don’t listen to a lot of international radio, but if there is a comparable programme anywhere else, you are very lucky indeed.
Tonight, in his programme, Sean Rafferty interviewed Julian Lloyd-Webber, another very good cellist and brother of Andrew, who was also present at the August 1968 Rostropovich concert (probably with much better seats than ours!) and Nicholas Kenyon, who was, one time, BBC Controller of The Proms (a very big Cheese indeed!). They played a priceless piece, which was the actual Sarabande from the 3rd Bach Cello Suite, which Rostropovich played that night as an encore to the Dvorak Cello Concerto. The gems that are secreted away in the BBC’s archives never cease to astound me. Anyway, I sat there transfixed listening to this, as I had 39 years ago.
The BBC run a system where you can listen to all their major programmes on-line for the next seven days following their transmission, and you can get access to it on www.bbc.co.uk. Follow the link to Radio 3, and Listen Again, and select the programme “In Tune” for Friday, 27th April. The programme lasts for two hours, and the 1968 concert excerpt is around 30-35 minutes into the programme.
If you want to hear something that will reduce you to absolute silence, just find it and listen.