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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 April 2007, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Russian farewell to Rostropovich
Man says farewell to Rostropovich at Moscow Conservatory - widow Galina Vishnevskaya on right
Thousands of mourners have bid farewell
The funeral of the celebrated Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich has been held in Moscow.

The ceremony took place in the same grand cathedral which earlier this week staged the funeral for the former Russian President, Boris Yeltsin.

The cellist was then buried alongside some of Russia's best-known cultural and political figures in the Novodevichye cemetery.

Mr Rostropovich died on Friday aged 80 after a long illness.

He was renowned not only as a legendary figure on the international musical stage, but was also admired for his defiance of Soviet repression.

Russians loved him for it, and there were emotional scenes as thousands of mourners - many of them young musicians - paid their respects.

'World's greatest'

On Saturday, Mr Rostropovich lay in an open coffin at the famous Moscow Conservatory where he once studied as a teenager.

Among the visitors was the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, who described Mr Rostropovich as irreplaceable.

He was moved to the Church of Christ Saviour, where farewells continued overnight.

At the funeral, sombre mourners lit candles and laid flowers near the open casket, where the musician's body lay covered with a white cloth embroidered with a cross.

Archbishop Alexy, who led prayers, read out a letter from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II describing Mr Rostropovich as a "tireless activist, defender of human dignity, spiritual freedom and love for the Motherland".

The patriarch added that the maestro had initiated a charity concert to raise money to rebuild the cathedral, Russia's largest.

Mr Rostropovich's widow, celebrated opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya, was joined, among other dignitaries, by Mr Yeltsin's widow Naina.

The wife of writer and former dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Spain's Queen Sofia, French first lady Bernadette Chirac and President Ilham Aliev of Azerbaijan, where Mr Rostropovich was born, were among those in attendance.

Applause

After the ceremony, the coffin was driven for burial to the elite Novodevichye cemetery, where the remains of his former teachers, Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev, also lie.

About 2,000 people applauded as Mr Rostropovich was finally laid to rest.

Mr Yeltsin, whom Mr Rostropovich counted as a personal friend, was buried there on Wednesday.

Mr Rostropovich was considered by many to be the world's greatest cellist.

But his support for dissidents such as Mr Solzhenitsyn - declared in a letter to state-run newspaper Pravda in 1970 - made him a target for the Russian authorities.

He left the Soviet Union and spent several years in the West with Ms Vishnevskaya and their children as he continued to build an international career.

Later the cellist was rehabilitated by then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and he was able to return to Russia to perform.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Scenes from Rostropovich's funeral



SEE ALSO
Musical legacy of cellist legend
27 Apr 07 |  Entertainment
Obituary: Mstislav Rostropovich
27 Apr 07 |  Europe
Rostropovich: A life in music
16 Apr 02 |  Entertainment



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