[The Berlin Wall fell thirty years ago. "The World" republishes an article dated 1997, in which the great Russian musician returns to these historical hours.]
On the heights of Baku, sheltered from the winds from the Caspian, smells of sulfur and burnt oil, nestles a large and beautiful villa, surrounded by a garden. The air is dry and sweet, perfumed with pollen, and the silence around it might make one think that one is halfway between the gray sky and the city below. An oasis in short, a dream of dignitary, voluptuous, wadded. You have to show white paw for the porch to open. Only the personal hosts of President Aliyev belong to the area. Or his guests. "This is the maestro I come to see. The black eyes of the soldiers are velvety. Ah! Maestro Rostropovitch! Yes of course he is there, the whole family is there. Galina the Divine, and then Lena, Olga, the girls, and four grandchildren. See, the ZIL is waiting for them to take them to the concert. But it's not yet four o'clock, maybe he's resting ...
Perhaps. For three days, three nights, the maestro, tirelessly, gave himself to his city. It has been seen everywhere: at the conservatory, at banquets, in a walk in the old town. Children in traditional costumes recited compliments, sang the glory of "Slava" (his first name) and played music. The cellist's return to his hometown was declared a national event. Nineteen years after being stripped of his Soviet citizenship and forced into exile, Rostropovich is celebrated as a king in Baku. And the king does not sleep much. Camped on the steps, he jokes while showing his Cossack shirt: "Am I pretty elegant? A marble staircase leads us into a monastic room on the first floor. From a corner of the house, take off a few piano notes. Soon children's laughter. Galina Vishnevskaya, the singer's wife, passes like a tightrope walker, her eyes smoky. And Rostro, mischievous, serves tea.
"A little surreal, maestro, this reversal of situation, this cult, these honors?
- Incredible, indeed. Magnificent. Magnificent.
" And all those musical critics from Moscow who swear by you?
- Fabulous! Very nice, even if I had preferred that they show me their esteem in times more risky ...
- And you here, royally housed in the residence of a president who was still boss of the KGB and apparatchik of Brezhnev at the time when you were banished from the USSR?