Rostropovich in Moscow hospital

Cellist-conductor Mstislav Rostropovich has been hospitalized in Moscow for an unspecified reason, and his manager said "it does not look good."

The hospitalization was disclosed by the Kremlin, which said the 79-year-old cellist had received a visit Tuesday by Russian President Vladimir Putin at an unspecified medical clinic in the capital.

A representative of Putin's press service said she did not know anything about Rostropovich's condition or treatment.

In New York, Rostropovich's manager told The Associated Press the cellist was hospitalized last week in Paris, where he maintains a residence, and then decided to return to Moscow.

"I saw him last week (in the hospital in Paris). He was fine," said Ronald Wilford, chairman of Columbia Artist Management Inc. and Rostropovich's manager for 35 years.

"We were talking, laughing and he looked fine."

Wilford said he had no information about Rostropovich's condition, but said Rostropovich returned to Moscow on Monday.

"It does not look good," he said.

Rostropovich, one of the world's greatest cellists and a human rights campaigner, went into exile from the Soviet Union with his family in 1974 after housing dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn for four years.

After going into exile, the Soviets stripped him of his citizenship.

When hardline communists tried to overthrow then-President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, Rostropovich rushed to the Russian parliament building to oppose the coup.

Three years after his exile, he became music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington. He held that the position until 1994 and retains the title conductor laureate.

Rostropovich developed close musical relationships with three of the mid-20th century's leading composers Sergei Prokofiev, Benjamin Britten and Dmitri Shostakovich, his teacher. He commissioned dozens of works for cello from them and others, reports AP.

Wilford said a big celebration is being planned in Moscow for Rostropovich's 80th birthday, with Seiji Ozawa conducting a concert on March 26, the eve of the birthday.

Rostropovich had an operation in the fall, but weeks later conducted two concerts in Japan celebrating the 100th anniversary of Shostakovich, Wilford said.

"He was just in Japan in December and he had concerts there and they were terrific," Wilford said. "He had the determination to get better in time for his concerts in Japan and he did."

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