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Highlights from the private collection of musicians Mstislav Rostropovich and Galina Vishnevskaya announced
Giovanni Battista Guadagnini (b Piacenza, 1711; d Turin, 1786) A Cello, Turin, 1783. Estimate: £1,000,000 - 1,500,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.

LONDON.- On 28th November, Sotheby’s London will offer for sale the private collection of the world’s greatest cellist and conductor, Mstislav Rostropovich, and the electrifying principal soprano of Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, Galina Vishnevskaya. The dedicated sale will feature over 100 lots, including furniture, personal jewellery, Russian works of art, books, and musical instruments from the renowned couple’s collection. Offered with an estimate in excess of £2.7 million the auction will present an unprecedented glimpse into the personal lives and loves of these two esteemed musicians.

Leading the sale will be three cellos from Rostropovich’s private collection. Including a masterful 1783 Guadagnini cello, the auction will mark the first time that the maestro’s personal musical instruments will be offered for sale. The Guadagnini cello, offered with an estimate of £1 – 1.5 million, was acquired by Rostropovich in 2000. The instrument was brought to the couple’s Paris flat, where Rostropovich merely plucked its strings very briefly before declaring his intention to buy it. The sale was confirmed later the same day over lunch, during which Rostropovich explained why he had always wanted to own a Guadagnini cello. At the age of 18 he had won the gold medal at the Soviet Union’s first ever competition for young musicians, and he attributed his success to the Guadagnini cello which he had used on that occasion. After he left Russia in 1974 he took the Guadagnini to a violin maker in Switzerland who declared that it was mis-labelled and nothing to do with that maker. Rostropovich at that point had sworn that one day he would own a fine Guadagnini cello.

Playing the Guadagnini cello during a recent visit to Sotheby’s London, Sheku KannehMason, the British cellist and the winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year Award who played at the wedding of HRH Prince Harry and Miss Meghan Markle earlier this year, said: “I always find it very special playing on cellos like this that were made hundreds of years ago. For me, it's very special to be playing an instrument that was played by someone I admire so much. I think listening to lots of different cellists, I don't try to copy what they do, but it's so interesting that we have so many recordings, to be able to learn from what they have done. I have learned a lot from listening to Rostropovich's playing. It's very special to be able to play an instrument that belonged to him.

Rostropovich is one of my favourite cellists to listen to and to watch videos of playing. I think what's so amazing about him as a musician is the amazing numbers of pieces that we now consider standard cello repertoire, which he commissioned. I think as a cellist, we owe a lot to Rostropovich.”

Two further cellos from the maestro’s collection will also be included; a 1741 Serafin cello with an estimate of £500,000 – 700,000, and a 1743 Guidanti cello with an estimate of £200,000 – 300,000. The cellos will be offered alongside a 7ft Bösendorfer grand piano (£40,000 – 60,000), which was played by Rostropovich as well as by some of the most prevalent contemporary composers and musicians of the era - including Henry Dutilleux, Witold Lutoslawski, Alfred Schnittke, Arthur Rubinstein and numerous others.

Jo Vickery, Sotheby’s International Director of Russian Art and Head of the Sale, said: “Sotheby’s is thrilled to have been entrusted to offer for sale three rare cellos which belonged to Mstislav Rostropovich. To acquire an instrument of superlative quality which was once cherished and played by one of the greatest cellists of all time must be the ultimate dream for a new generation of musicians.

Mstislav Rostropovich and Galina Vishnevskaya were one of the most famous 20th-century power couples and their influence extended well beyond the music world to international politics. In their personal lives they showed impeccable taste and a deep love for their homeland, having created in Paris for their family an apartment packed full of Russian pre-revolutionary art, objects and furniture and many of these pieces are to be sold in this collection. The romance between them, after a whirlwind four day courtship, lasted a lifetime and it is very special to be offering for sale treasured pieces of jewellery which Galina Vishnevskaya wore, which were gifts from her devoted husband, such as the emerald and diamond pendant necklace by Simon Rundale, a present to commemorate their 50th Wedding Anniversary.”

Tim Ingles, Director of Ingles & Hayday and Sotheby's Musical Instrument Consultant added: “It is a privilege to offer instruments and bows from the collection of Mstislav Rostropovich, one of the most talented and influential musicians of the 20th century. His collection of cellos was second to none, and this group of instruments includes magnificent examples of the work of two of the leading cello makers of the 18th century – Giovanni Battista Guadagnini and Santo Serafin. Rostropovich chose only the finest cellos to own and to play, and all the instruments were selected for their striking looks, fine condition and of course their beautiful sound.”

Jewellery from Vishnevskaya’s personal collection will also feature in the sale. An emerald and diamond pendant necklace (£40,000 – 60,000) which was given as a gift from Rostropovich to his wife on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary in 2005, a Cartier diamond ring (£250,000 – 300,000), and a Maid of honour cypher in the form of the Cyrillic initial 'A' for the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (£20,000 – 30,000), will be among the highlights.

Rostropovich’s open nature gained him thousands of friendships with the couple having many friends from across the musical sphere and beyond. One such friend was prominent Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí, who gifted the cellist a bronze violin sculpture, inscribed Dalí and dated 1966, which will be offered with an estimate of £40,000 – 60,000. Rostropovich and Dalí were friends and Dalí is known to have created a portrait of Rostropovich, which was presented to him after the artist’s death in 1989.

Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya were great collectors of Russian art and amassed a fine collection of paintings, decorative arts and furniture, a number of examples of which will be offered in the sale. Frequently travelling and unwillingly exiled from Russia, the couple decorated and furnished their homes around the world with their collection of Russian art to act as reminders of their beloved Soviet homeland.

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