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Mstislav Rostropovich and Yehudi Menuhin

Prince of Asturias Award for Concord 1997

Yehudi Menuhin

Your Majesty,
The Prince of Asturias,
Distinguished Friends,

In the inimitable setting of the city of Oviedo, romantic Vetusta, the cradle of this extraordinary country that is Spain, with its wealth of human experiences of oft-inseparable exaltation and suffering, of love and cruelty, The Prince of Asturias Award for Concord has been conferred upon two human beings who have dedicated their lives, sentiments, ideas, hands and fingers to the impassioned sounds of strings that beseech, console and dance, that are joined to the most beautiful, resonant, vibrant, quasi-living bodies known to man - the violin and the cello - which in turn are inspired into becoming a wonder of resilience, flexibility, balance and power by the stroke of horse mane on chord by means of a stick - the bow.

Our role is by definition that of messenger between the Creator and the created, between the prophet and his people, between Bach, Beethoven, Bartok, Shostakovich and many more and Mankind. By its very nature, our work can be neither homicidal nor cruel. We are, quite simply, "pipes", more or less faithful conduits for the melodies that we play. We conjure up for you visions, joys lived and pain suffered. Perhaps by sharing the voices of Humanity with our audience, we usher each member of it gradually towards that voice - sometimes so faint and almost silenced, sometimes booming, loud and tearful - that poses the eternal question: why?

Why is the image of beauty and perfection almost always associated with art, fantasy and the creative powers of our great poets, writers and musicians or with the thousands of nameless artisans, but hardly ever with politics, trade and human relations?

How can we adore the venerable great creator of life, love and wisdom, "Our Lord Jesus", and the saints, prophets and incarnations of God, and pay tribute to philosophers and noble statesmen, and even to good-willed cellists and violininst, whilst we look upon bleeding humanity, to whom is denied all respite, a decent life for our children, ever under the threat of fearful punishment at the hands of Nature? It is as if we acknowledge good yet consent to evil.

Why are we honoured when we have achieved so little? Why are we steeped in accolades when mankind, each one of us, has learnt so little from our saints, poets, artists and musicians? I would like to believe that a function, perhaps the least reprehensible of all functions, is being honoured for as musicians it is for us to seek inspiration and pardon rather than punishment. Conferring awards on us expresses a need that fulfils man?s profound desire to please and also to confess.

Slava and I are neither high priests nor saints. However, maybe we are somewhat more aware of our mission to mankind than others, and we have had the opportunity to put this mission into practice in conditions and situations when people can hear a voice, recognise a symbol that they can dream of, aspire to or suffer for but which they cannot achieve.

Maybe Slava and I are links towards a new man who will be capable of spending the required time, thought and creative imagination to foster the artist that exist in our children, in every child, in such a way that our relations be acknowledged as living structures of art. Maybe we are links towards a new day when we will place as much importance on the creative organic life of our children and our relationships of responsibility towards other cultures as the importance we now place on the phenomenal inorganic breakthroughs in technology, communications, the exploration of space and arms.

We are moving from a freedom that can conquer and subjugate to an understanding of the increasing responsibilities we take on in relation to freedom of expression, for all freedom is bounded by obligation, and the essence of pure freedom only exists when we subjugate ourselves in art or in the mastery of a skill and when we confer upon others the freedom to be themselves, to give and to help.

We must be determined and brave in the defence of the rights of the defenceless, as we should equally be when we ask those responsible to justify their actions in line with man´s law, which should be applied by independent courts. If we can kindle and foster the creative spark that exists in each and every one of us, if we can be the voice of the silent voices of unfortunate children from oppressed cultures - as our dearly loved Europe tried to do - if we manage to spawn and inculcate a sense of responsibility amongst those who exert influence, give the orders and decide policies, then I believe that I can end by stating that the positive feelings that this great honour inspires in me probably justifies the trust that was placed in the two instrumentalists who have won the Award for Concord.

Thank you.

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