Mstislav Rostropovich, the cellist and conductor who was an outspoken champion of artistic freedom in the Soviet Union, has been honored with a monument in downtown Moscow.
The bronze and granite statue of Rostropovich with a cello in his hands was unveiled on Thursday in a ceremony attended by politicians, cultural figures, relatives and friends of the musician, The Moscow Times reports. Rostropovich would have been 85 on March 27.
The sculpture was installed near the former home of the musician, where he lived with his wife, opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya.
Vishnevskaya was in attendance on Thursday along with Vladimir Putin. The president-elect recalled celebrating Rostropovich's 80th birthday with him in the Kremlin in 2007, the year the musician passed away. "I'm proud that I knew Rostropovich," Putin said in his remarks. "He was not only a great musician, he was a great humanist and was just a wonderful person.”
The tribute comes 38 years after the cellist and his family defected to the United States. He was banned from several musical orchestras in his homeland, and his Soviet citizenship was revoked in 1978 because of his public opposition to the Soviet Union's restriction of cultural freedom. He would not return to the Soviet Union until 1990.
Also in observance of Rostropovich’s birthday, several recordings that he made for Decca and Philips have been reissued in a new five-CD set.