Mikhail Vasilievich Lomonosov is one of those great Russians we all came to know in early childhood. The list of the domains which have enjoyed his contribution is impressive. He managed to show his worth as a physicist, a chemist, a geologist, a poet, an orator, a philologist, a historian, a painter, a publicist… He has also brought major contribution as an advocate of the development of Russian education, science and economy. As Pushkin said of him, “I respect Lomonosov as a great personality but, of course, not as a great poet. Between Peter I and Catherine II he is the only distinctive associate of enlightenment. He created the first university, he, would it be better to say, was himself our first university”. Indeed, Lomonosov’s work mirrored all the strength, beauty and vitality of Russian science that was pushing back the frontiers of contemporary knowledge. It also mirrored the achievements of the country which was able, ensuing Peter’s reform, to narrow the gap between Russia and the foremost nations of the world, and catch up with them.
Lomonosov was born on November 8th, 1711, in the Arkhangelsk region. He descended from a rural but a prosperous family. His mother died when Lomonosov was small, and his father was a fisherman, and Lomonosov wrote of him that he was “brought up in abysmal ignorance”. The best moments of the future poet and scientist have been those that he spent with his father at sea. His youth was also marked by the stories of Peter I’s great deeds. His mother taught him to read and has transmitted to him a passion to do it. Lomonosov is thought to have become aware of the need to learn at this very age. His eagerness to learn was unbounded.
Realising that there was no chance of pursuing education at home, he resolved to go by foot to Moscow. Having completed the long route to Moscow, he became a student of the Slavonic-Greek-Latin academy and has studied there for 5 years. His letter to Ivan Ivanovich Shuvalov reveals the physical destitution and the emotional struggle he had to live through. During these 5 years, he got the taste of science, became familiar with what the Russian science was at the time, and learnt Latin, the language of science. A bright event came to his life at this time: he was among the 12 students of the Academy that the Science Academy chose to go to Germany to continue their education there. His journey not only gave him comprehensive knowledge of maths, physics, chemistry and geology, but it also formed his ideology. In June 1741, he returned to Russia and
began to beg for the permission to give public lectures in Russian, to multiply the translations of European books and to elaborate a practical application of science. The year 1755 has seen the inauguration of the Moscow university, for which Lomonosov has elaborated an initial plan, making the Moscow university similar to the foreign ones.
Earlier, in 1753, Lomonosov managed to build a patchwork factory. Two years later, he has successfully advocated the right of the lower estate to education. He affirmed that knowledgeable people are needed “for Siberia, for mining, factories; the preservation of the people, architecture, justice, the improvement of morals and manners, merchants, the unity of faith; as well as for farming, forecast of weather, soldiering”.
Lomonosov died, in the middle of his intensive work, on April the 4th, 1764.
Lomonosov was similar to his favoured Peter the Great in the number of things he had to do: “give lectures”, “carry out new experiments”, “give public speeches andreadings of dissertations”, “compose different verse and legends for the solemn expressions of joy”, “compose the rules of eloquence” and write “the history of our homeland” – and to do it all in time. Lomonosov’s personal likings went to physics and chemistry, while for his contemporaries he essentially was a poet.
Let us now name some of his achievements in science. Mikhail Vasilievich Lomonosov has developed his theory of heat, according to which heat is the internal invisible whirl of solid, in particular the whirl of particle that make it up. This theory, denying the existence of thermal matter, has not encountered opposition for 110-120 years. Interested in meteorology, he realised the importance of weather forecasts and urged to set up weather stations and introduced plotters in order to explore the upper layers of the atmosphere. In the end of his life, Lomonosov was exploring gravity using pendulums, wrote a large manual of scientific sailing (using many newly-introduced appliances). He also wrote a thesis on icebergs, deducing that they can only form close to beaches of sweet water. Thanks to his efforts, an expedition was set up to study nothern seas. As to his contribution to astronomy, he has made an amazing discovery that the planet Venus is surrounded by a large layer of atmosphere. This discovery was made in 1761, while Venus was passing through the Earth’s disk. All of his works are marked by an abundance of new ides and views, much of which are near to those of nowadays.
Reflecting Lomonosov’s general views on the study of chemistry, the academician Valden wrote: “His views are so modern and their accound is so fresh that while reading them, we forget that we live a century and a half apart from the person who can be named the “father of physical chemistry”. Here is what Professor Kablukov wrote, assessing how Lomonosov’s inventions and findings were perceived by his contemporaries: “Lomonosov’s contemporaries, with exception of several persons, did not understand and did not appreciate his works on physics and chemistry. Count M.L.Vorontsov, for instance, regarded took the electrical machine as an “impudent trial of natural misteries”. V.A.Naschokin pointed out with irony that Rikhman tried to save people from thunder and flash, and was himself killed. Neither did understand or appreciate his works those who stood close to science and education, his nearests Academy mates, even his direct substitutes at the Academy chair. They only began to talk of Lomonosov 90 years after his death, and for the first time talked in the Moscow university, when time came to remember that Lomonosov was its founder. Lomonosov’s works did not gain proper attention until 1900, when the 150 years of the first chemical workshop were marked; this was as well founded by Lomonosov”.
Indeed, he has been the direct successor of Peter the Great in the pursuit of the common spititual and literary revival of Russia. By his diverse scientific proceedings, as well as by his poetical works, Lomonosov gave a lively, factual application to Peter’s literature and science reforms. And here is another Pushkin’s assessment of Lomonosov’s acchievements: “Combining the formidable will-power and the formidable strength of perception, Lomonosov embraced all the branches of learning. A thirst for a deeper appreciation of things proved an overwhelming passion with that impassioned spirit. A historian, rhetorician, mechanic, chemist, mineralogist, artist and poet, he had experienced it all and perceived it all…”.
The musical talents of Rostropovich became apparent when he was very young. At 4, he would compose short pieces and play them out. The musical education of little Slava, the future cellist, and his elder sister Veronika, the future violinist, followed the way made by their father. The piano is the beginning of everything for the musician. Its notes could be heard the day round: his parents used to play it, so did the children. This is when little Mstislav felt he was principal: he would conduct, set the tempo, show out the time of the introduction, - and all this is done with passion and pleasure. He was eight or nine years old when he felt he longed for playing cello: it sounded so exciting when his father played it, it seemed so obedient, nearly alive. Not less important was the fact that his father played it: Slava worshiped, admired and imitated him. And the love for his cello was as well the love for his father. The only person he wanted to become his teacher was his father.
So, the learning began. Leopold Vitoldovich, Mstislav’s father, did not only bring him to master the technique. In the first place, the father his son to listen to the music and would often play the piano, showing the incalculable wealth of the musical world to his son, fascinating him with stories about ingenious composers, musicians, poets, artists and actors. By doing so, he associated his son with the grandiose indivisible world of art. And the child who was comprehending these lessons was unique: unique was his memory – musical, visua, picturesque; unique was his physique – his hands. All this will have shown up later. But at the time, the child continued his piano and cello studies, following his father from one music school to another; following his father’s will, he began composingand once merited V.Y.Shebalin’s praise.
One of his teachers, the pianist V.Gornostayeva recalls: “he was uncommonly tall, utterly nice and fabulously lively, endowed with a kind of mad energy. Essentially, the kind of person that he is today. The “mad energy” has made a positive effect: during the summer of 1940, he has played Saint-Saens’ cello concert in public, first in Slavianka, an then in Orenburg. He was playing together with a real philharmonic orchestra, and the cello group was headed by his father. Everything was joyful and unforgettable: rehearsals, the expectation of the festival, the honourable role of the soloist, and after the concert – applause and compliments. He has not only merited to be congratulated with his “baptism of fire”: he was about to take the road of a professional musician, the third in his family.
His grandfather, Nikolai Fedotov, served as a chanter, as a choirmaster and taught choral singing. His other grandfather, Vitold Rostropovich, was a pianist and a teacher, and, as well as Nikolai Fedotov, wrote textbooks for beginner musicians. And he was a hereditary nobleman: Vitold’s father. Vladilav Gannibal has acquired nobility under Nikolai II. The document signed by the emperor said: “Consider the Rostropovich family, including all their sons, ranked among the highest nobility guild”.
A hundred years before Mstislav Rostropovich was born, Pushkin wrote of the nobles: “It has always appeared for me as a necessary and natural estate of the great educated people”… “To be proud of one’s forefathers is not only permitted but is also imperative; not respecting this is a shameful faintheartedness”. And a bit later: “… I utterly value my forefathers’ good name, this sole legacy that I have from them”. And also: “No doubt, there are merits higher than the family’s gentlehood, namely one’s own dignity…”
But let us return to 1940. In this year, Leopold Rostropovich has been confered the rank of a Honoured artist. The following year, prominent musicians (singers A.Nejdanova, I.Kozlovsky, composer R.Glier, conductor N.Golovanov, pianist A. Goldenveizer, violonist D.Oystrakh) have met to discuss the approaching 50-year anniversary of “one of the best musicians of the Union – cellist, teacher, composer”… The celebration did not take place. The war broke out.
The family headed for Chkalov – Sofai Nikolaevna’s birth place. The parents of Mstislav Rostropovich got the job of teachers in a musical college. It it there that the young cellist received his first cello, a hand-made one. As he recalled a lot later, “number 7 was marked with a blue paint on it. There were no sound at all. Its only “advantage” was the solid wood it was made of; when I became very tired, I would sometimes sit on it”. Now, Rostropovich possesses two cellos: one of them was manufactured by the great Stradivari in 1711; it has a sign of Napoleon’s spur on it; the other was made by Stradivari’s apprentice, Lorenzo Storioni in 1760. But in the pitiable 1941, he struggled to manage with the wooden “marvel” that he had then, and made it “sing”. While he lived in Chkalov, he would go to performances, sit reherasals, admire singers, orchestra, conductors… He later said, “I was the sone of the Small opera theatre… I was loved there, they knew I was an able musician”.
Recalling his adolescence, the great maestro said: “… I have not forgotten anything. During my Orenburg’s first chilly winter, the water we had at home has frozen. I don’t know how we lived through that night, but in the morning a man we did not know brought us a small stove and some firewood. Thanks to this, we have survived. When my father died, I wrote in my notebook: “Order no.1. To immediately take up practising cello, not less than three hours a day. Commander-in-chief Rostropovich”. I began giving concerts – this way, I could earn my means of subsistance. Another source of income were wich lamps that I’d made from laboratory phials. I as well remember nutrition coupons, given by the composer Chulaki; I remember the canteen that had fed me with its soups. I remember going to Orsk with the singers from the Small opera theatre. We were travelling in a deep-frozen carriage; we were given one blanket each. I lay down and thought how wonderful it would be to fall asleep and not ever wake up. In the middle of the night, I suddenly felt warm. With my rigid fingers, I touched what lay on me – I counted six blankets. Everyone appeared to have given me theirs. All these six blankets, the small stove, the firewood and the dinners, I will never manage to pay it off”.
In the late 1940s, the post-graduate Prokofiev got to know Sergey Sergeevich Prokofiev. They became acquainted when composer N.Y.Myaskovsky came to a concert with Prokofiev. Rostropovich was playing Myaskpvsky’s new cello sonata that evening. Congratulating the performer on his good playing after the concert, Prokofiev told him that he decided to compose a cello sonata for him to play. The sonate for cello and piano was written very soon, and performed by Rostropovich and Rikhter in the Small conservatoire hall on March 1st, 1950. Mstislav Leopoldovich once said the Prokofiev “has resettled a tiny piece of his sun into me, and it will remain enough for long”. He has spent four summers in Prokofiev’s countyr house. And he had an opportunity to observe the composer’s “creative process” every day. For each of the two, this labour was primarily a labour of soul.
He began his career as a conductor in 1967 in the Bolshoi theatre, making his debut with Chaikovsky’s “Evgeny Onegin”. But soon, disfavour fell on him, and he had to leave the USSR in 1974. Four years after, in 1978, he and his wife, G.Vishnevskaya, have been deprived of the soviet citizenship for remedial activities, in particular for offering patronage to A.I.Soljenitsin. In 1990, a decree annuling the last one and rehabilitation him with all his honorary titles. Rostropovich has made a rational step of not returnig to his native country. Neither has he accepted the citizenship offered by other countries.
From 1977 till 1994, he has been the conductor of the National symphony orchestra in Washington; this orchestra became one of the best US orchestras under him. Rostropovich organises his own festivals, sets up musical schools and holds master-classes.
Rostropovich recognises that the three composers who have made an impact on him are Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Britten. His creative work developed in two directions: as a cellist and as a conductor. He had played virtually all the cello repertoire. He has inspired about 60 of the XXth-century composers to dedicate their works to him: Shostakovich and Prokofiev, Britten and Berstein, Dutiye, Lutoslavsky, Penderetski, Chaikovsky… Rostropovich was the first to perform 117 cello works and to conduct 70 new orchestra productions. He has played together with S.Rikhter, E.Gulels, L.Kogan and G.Vishnevskaya.
Mstislav Rostropovich has never remained impartial to the political situation and developments. But his tool is not pompous speeches or TV appearences, but music. He denies the groundless arguments that he fought against communism and for democracy, and says: “For me, communism was bad because my near friends suffered from it”. “Prokofiev was not performed during his last years, - Rostropovich continues - he suffered from a deep depression because of the authorities’ prosecution and a constant defamation in the soviet press. Shostakovich survived in the soviet rule only because he kept silent… rather spoke, but by music. For example, his first violin concert was written in 1948 and was dedicated to the victims of Stalin’s repressions. Its first public performance was given 7 years after, well after Stalin’s death. And what about Soljenitsin, Tarkovsky?.. Their destinies were broken by the regime of the time. This is why, when the Berlin Wall collapsed, for me it not only meant the end of the communist empire, but also the end of the sufferance of my friends in Russia, Poland, Germany… And in August 1991, I was standing on barricades not because I supported Yeltsin (furthermore, I was not familiar with him at all at the time), but because I knew: if the putschists triumph and communists take over the power again, my friends in Russia will be suffering even more. And I would not be able to return to Moscow. This is why I hae always supported democrats. But I consider that, when my friend Soljenitsin, during his jubilee, refused to take the decoration from the government which plunged Russia into misery, he made an absolutely correct step.”
Many witty and funny stories are known that happened to Mstislav Rostropovich. Here are four of them.
Mstislav Rostropovich set about to lead an orchestra playing Prokofiev’s Symphony no.5. During the rehearsal, he did not manage to get the performers to play a piece in a correct way. So, he told the musicians: “Imagine this: a communal kitchen, eight tables stand in a row, on them stand eight primus stoves. Everyone scratches on their own table, not listening to the others, a loud noise persists. Suddenly, someone from downstairs yells: “Salmon being given away!”. And everyone abandons what they were doing and rushes to the shop downstairs…”. After a long laugh, the musicians got down to the reherasal. And when the conformable piece of music approached, Rostropovich shouted out in a pause: “Salmon!”. And the performers truly “rushed” after it with an amazing effect.
Once a day, the German writer Lion Feihtvagner invited him to his place. Rostropovich came with his cello, and Feihtvagner asked him to play it. When the cellist had finished, Feihtvagner approached him with a large soft-tip pen. He turned the chair over and said: “Authograph it”. Rostropovich felt confused and was about to refuse, but the writer said: “Nobody will believe me if I tell them afterwards that you were sitting on this chair and playing for me ”.
During several years, Rostropovich was a friend of Prokofiev’s. The young man saw his ideal in Prokofiev and tried to resemble him, even in trivia. Familiar with the fact that Prokofiev liked perfume and ties, Rostropovich has adopted these. Being told that he resembled Prokofiev by appearance was a compliment for him. When Prokofiev was in disfavour, Rostropovich has lived two summers in his country house. The cellist has carried this affection through all of his life.
One of Rostropovich’s friends had a good collection of Russian porcelain. Rostropovich would scrutinise it each time he was invited, and then started to buy small items himself. As such items had disappeared from curiosity shops in Russia, he had to become acquainted with collectors and come to their place. As he would never do things by halves, he decided that he should posess the best collection of Russian porcelain. But specialist knowledge was essential, and as he did not have it, he would often put his foot into it, buying a worthless item for a tidy sum. But he was not embarassed by such discomfitures; his passion for porcelain grew on. He would make his way through impassable mud for a figurine. Little by little, his house became packed with shards, which Rostropovich used to glue together in a showcase. Shorly after, he would rush in a new “expedition”…
Rostropovich has a notebook where he makes note of all his concerts and charitable activities. He says that his life would be senseless without it, and if the books gets lost, no-one will ever manage to recover the notes.
Rostropovich’s performance is marked by technical mastery, beauty of sound, artistry, stylistic culture, dramaturgic adjustment, inspiring emotionality and enthusiasm. Here is what the cellist Natalya Gutman sid of what Rostropovich was for her: “In the first place, it is an ingenious personality and a great musician. He is an incredibly warm person, a very faithful friend and an uncommonly generous one. […] I consider that he has spiritualised the XXth century, inspired many of the composers that had enriched the cello repertoire. Indeed, never has the cello music seen such a flourishing. An this, I think, is entirely Rostropovich’s merit”.
The last quotation of his reflects on the power of music to turn the world spiritual: “A dangerous situation has formed in the world. And art can save the world, to some extent, - if we learn to understand music in a wider and deeper way that it often is at concerts. Correct musical education and upbringing can show the way to the human soulm to his conscience, that will make him think about the things he creates. And, perhaps, the world, life and beauty will become more attractive for them that weapons, war or violence.”
Indeed, he has grasped all the civilised world by his magical musical talent and fantastical social temperament, creating a certain new circle of the “circulation” of culture and links between people.
1. /Katatonia/1998 - Discouraged Ones/01 - I Break.rtf
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