According to the Associated Press, the Kremlin's press service confirmed yesterday that the 79-year-old cellist and conductor is in a Moscow clinic, where he was visited by President Vladimir Putin. The government spokesperson had no information on the nature of Rostropovich's illness or his current condition.
Ronald Wilford, chairman of Columbia Artist Management Inc. and the maestro's longtime manager, told the AP that Rostropovich was admitted to a Paris hospital last week but decided to return to Moscow on Monday (Feb. 5). Wilford gave no information about the conductor's ailment or current state other than saying, "It does not look good."
This morning, however, Rostropovich's Moscow secretary, Natalia Dollezhal, told reporters that his condition was improving. The AP quoted her as saying that "he has gotten a bit sick but he will be OK"; she told Reuters that "right now there is no cause [for concern] whatsoever" and that Putin's visit was to discuss plans for the maestro's upcoming 80th birthday celebrations.
Dollezhal also declined to elaborate on the nature of the illness.
In late October, Rostropovich withdrew for health reasons from a Shostakovich mini-festival scheduled for early November with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. (He was the orchestra's music director from 1977 to 1994 and is now its Conductor Laureate.) While Rostropovich was able to attend the 80th birthday celebrations in Moscow at the time for his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, his doctors had reportedly advised him not to undertake the long transatlantic flight. No further information about his condition became public then, though Wilford told the AP last night that Rostropovich had undergone an operation during the fall.
He recovered and was able to conduct the Orchestre de Paris in two pairs of concerts in mid-November. According to an RIA-Novosti report cited by the AP, he required some medical attention in December while in the Russian city of Voronezh. Wilford told the AP that Rostropovich also traveled to Japan in December for performances "and they were terrific. He had the determination to get better in time for his concerts in Japan and he did."
Rostropovich celebrates his 80th birthday on March 27, and there is reportedly a celebration planned for the previous day in Moscow, with Seiji Ozawa conducting a concert in the maestro's honor.