27 April 2007 The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today expressed his “profound sadness” at the death of the great Russian cellist who also served as Goodwill Ambassador for the agency.
“I have always admired this exceptional musician, who knew how to turn his immense talent into an instrument for the defence of human rights,” Koïchiro Matsuura said in a statement. “His genius enabled him to practice his art unrelentingly at the service of tolerance, the sound of his cello moving us to the quick.”
Mr. Rostropovich participated in the 1999 UNESCO-backed programme, the International Appeal for the Arts Education and Creativity at School.
With his wife, the famed singer Galina Vichnievskaia, he created a programme to provide measles-mumps-rubella vaccinations to children in Azerbaijan, and as a result, more than 700,000 children are immunized every year through the Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation.
“In his life Rostropovich embodied a high idea of the dialogue among cultures and civilizations,” Mr. Matsuura said. “Committed to promoting freedom of expression alongside UNESCO, he lent his support to many cultural and educational projects throughout the world.”
On the occasion of his 80th birthday, Mr. Matsuura awarded UNESCO’s Mozart gold medal to Mr. Rostropovich for his work as a Goodwill Ambassador.
“He was always ready to help, present at our sides,” Mr. Matsuura remembered of the celebrated musician.