WASHINGTON — THIS time, "Slava" Rostropovich was conducting a press conference with the same sort of elan he puts into his work as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra. He gave a brief "cello solo" on the subject of young musicians, a subject dear to his heart for the 15 years he's been conducting the NSO. The Russian emigre cellist and conductor in the gray pin-striped suit spoke about his concerns for young American musicians and their need for support. He said that for young musicians, even if they are very talented, "the most difficult [thing] to make is [a] debut." Some real talents are missed, he said, because of this difficulty.
So he decided to make possible some kind of debut for promising young American musicians who would otherwise not have the opportunity. The result is an important showcase in the NSO's 1991-92 season: a week of programs featuring the introduction of young American soloists performing with the NSO in May 1992.
"Always for me, very important, new musicians, very important for my soul," he explained. When young Russian violinist Viktoria Mullova defected to the United States, Mstislav Rostropovich called a press conference to introduce her, and helped her to make musical contacts in a new country and perform with the NSO.
The young soloists making their debut are yet to be chosen and will be either native-born Americans or naturalized US citizens - "Green Card Americans!" beams Rostropovich. Included among the professional NSO soloists in this year's program is violinist Isaac Stern, who performed 20 years ago at Kennedy Center's opening. In the upcoming 20th anniversary year, soloists also will include violinist Pinchas Zukerman, pianist Eugene Istomin, and baritone Tom Krause among others.
ROSTROPOVICH has played a unique role in boosting the NSO to international prominence. His efforts to polish the orchestra till it shines take the form of the Orchestra Soloists' Program, which will continue with one week of subscription concerts as a showcase for the talent of individual orchestra members.
Over 40 members of the orchestra have played as soloists in the six years the program has been in place. Rostropovich said that the solos disproved the old tale that orchestra members play well only in ensemble.
"Not so. I don't believe it," said the conductor, characterizing orchestra members' solo work as "smashing."
The orchestra will also play several premieres and commissions: Jon Deak's String Quartet Concerto, Vyacheslav Artyomov's new symphony, "Gentle Emanation," part of a tetralogy titled "Symphony of the Way;" and Henri Dutilleux's new section for 12 cellos in his "Timbres, espace, mouvement."
Among the conductors who will appear with the NSO this year are Andre Previn, Christopher Hogwood, James Conlon, Christoph Eschenbach, and Zdenek Macal, as well as Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, Jerzy Semkow, Peter Maag, Tamas Vasary, Robert Shaw, Robert Schafer, and Randall Craig Fleisher, the affiliate artist conductor.