High on the list of people I have most admired is Mstislav Rostropovich, the great Russian cellist who died in April. I admired him first for his courage. In 1970 Rostropovich expressed his support for artistic freedom and human rights in a letter to Pravda, the state-run newspaper of the Soviet Union. In response, the Soviets stripped him and his wife of Soviet citizenship.
I also admired his passion for life, his exuberance and his propensity to show great love. I heard him play a Dvorak cello concerto, one of his favorites, in Chicago, and at the end of the performance, as the audience sat in silence, mesmerized, Rostropovich did an extraordinary thing: he stood up and kissed his cello. The audience erupted. Then he hugged and kissed a surprised Daniel Barenboim, the conductor. Then he hugged and kissed the entire cello section before moving on to the violins. He hugged and kissed most of the members of the orchestra.