Master Russian cellist Rostropovich dies

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Famed Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich has died at the age of 80, his publicist has announced.

The Azerbaijani-born musician died in a Moscow hospital after suffering from intestinal cancer in recent years.

As well as a masterful cellist and conductor, Rostropovich, known as 'Slava', was also a renowned campaigner for human rights and freedoms.

Born in Baku on March 27th 1927, his life spanned the rise and fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

After making his first western appearances in the 1950s due to the thawing of international relations under Nikita Khrushchev, Rostropovich was exiled from the Soviet Union after failing to return from a sanctioned two-year overseas stay in 1978.

He and his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, were reinstated as citizens in 1990, but Rostropovich memorably played Bach as the Berlin Wall fell and was a supporter of Boris Yeltsin in the last throes of the Soviet Union.

Last month Rostropovich, who was director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington for 17 years, attended a celebration at the Kremlin to mark his 80th birthday.

With president Vladimir Putin in attendance, the visibly frail cellist said: "I feel myself the happiest man in the world.

"I will be even happier if this evening will be pleasant for you."

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