Rostropovich: The Genius of the Cello

2011   BBC Four

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Nobody else in history has done more for the cello than Mstislav Rostropovich.  He changed the way the cello was played, and inspired more than 100 new works for the instrument, from composers as eminent as Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Britten, Dutilleux and Lutoslawski.  His chequered relationship with the Soviet authorities in Moscow helped propel his cello from the concert platform to the world stage.

This film features previously unseen footage of the 1964 world premiere in Moscow of the Symphony for Cello and Orchestra by Benjamin Britten. (For further information about this discovery, visit  Contributors to the film include:  Galina Vishnevskaya, Elena and Olga Rostropovich, Seiji Ozawa, Henri Dutilleux, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Moray Welsh, Elizabeth Wilson, Natalia Gutman, Mischa Maisky, Karine Georgian and Sir Clive Gillinson.  This is an ITN Production for BBC Four.



Photography Vaughan Matthews
Sound Paul Paragon
Research Charlotte Knowles, Martin Cass
Fixers Sergey Brovkine, Laurent Tabet
Consultant Elizabeth Wilson
Production Manager Annie Moore
BBC Commissioning Editor Adam Barker
Film Editor Samuel Santana
Executive Producer Philip Armstrong-Dampier
Written, narrated and directed by John Bridcut

 (1 x 90’)

First showing on BBC Four, October 2011.   The film was previously screened at the Aldeburgh Festival in June 2011. 



'This lovely film [...] is required viewing'

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian


'A towering model of its kind  [...]   Even without that special dimension of on-the-spot commentary – one which Bridcut cultivated so successfully in his film about Elgar – this would be a moving testament. [...]  I can think of documentary makers, mentioning no names, who could make it hagiographical, over-sensational and more about them than their subject. Bridcut has always been motivated by what seems a selfless love for complicated greatness; Britten and Elgar have been fine candidates for his determination to set misconceptions straight. [...] As always with this director, though, the music’s the thing  – he is never afraid to use other musicians to let us see how genius actually operates.  

'I wept quite a lot during this. Such a force of humanity demands no less.'

David Nice,

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