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Mstislav Rostropovich and Yehudi Menuhin

Prince of Asturias Award for Concord 1997

Their greatest contributions to freedom, defending the rights of the weak.

Mstislav Rostropovich

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Mstislav Rostropovich (Baku, Azerbaijan, 1927 - Moscow, Russia, 2017) is internationally regarded as the twentieth-century’s most brilliant virtuoso of the cello. In addition to his musical career, he also stood out as one of the leading defenders of human rights in the world.

After beginning his musical training at the age of four, he enrolled in the Moscow Conservatory at eight years of age and gave his first concert at fifteen. As a result of the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968, he came into contact with Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whom he subsequently supported both morally and financially. He became a defender of human rights in his country and, as a consequence, became the object of persecution. Distinguished with the International League’s Award for Human Rights in 1974, that same year he vowed never to play again in his country until there was complete artistic freedom, for which he and his wife, the singer Galina Vishnevskaya, were stripped of their Soviet citizenship in 1978.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, he conducted a peace concert in this German city. In that same year and after regaining citizenship, he returned to perform in his country in a concert presided over by Raisa Gorbachev and HM Queen Sofía of Spain. In the final years of his career, he offered an average of 30 charity concerts a year, especially in support of the Bolshoi Theatre and the care of Russian children in a hospital that depends on the Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation.

He was awarded 41 honorary degrees by universities around the world, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Tel-Aviv and Oxford, among others. He likewise received numerous distinctions, including the German Order of Merit, the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society, the Lenin Prize, the annual award of the International League of Human Rights and was named Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. He was appointed a Commander by Number of the Royal Order of Charles III of Spain in 2004 and was awarded the Russian Order of Merit in 2007. He was a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

Yehudi Menuhin

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Yehudi Menuhin was born in New York in 1916. The son of Jewish emigrants from Russia, he obtained British citizenship in 1985 (he also has the title of Lord). He revealed himself as a prodigious violinist at an extremely early age, and he offered his first public concert in San Francisco when he was only five years old. Student of some of the foremost maestros of the violin, he appeared in Paris at the age of ten, in New York at the age of eleven, and shortly thereafter in Berlin. In 1934 he rejected a visit to Germany on the grounds of his Jewishness, while requesting that the exile of other Jewish musicians be annulled, and in 1935 he went on his first world-tour. During World War II, he gave more than 500 concerts for the Red Cross and the Allied Forces. After the war, he performed in Germany in 1947 and in Moscow in 1950, and he was responsible for the intercultural exchange program between the United States and the USSR in 1955.

In addition to his career as violinist, he has also directed orchestras. Moreover, he has made a significant contribution to the growth of the teaching of music, through the creation of two important schools in Great Britain and Switzerland. Standout human rights activist, he has offered charitable concerts across the world in support of numerous causes. Lord Yehudi Menuhin is also known for his collection of more than 30 violins as well as for his books: "The Violin", "The Music of Man", "Violin and Viola", etc. Winner of the Yawahasjal Nehru Award (1970), gold medal from the General Association of Authors and Editors (1995), and Civil Merit Cross of Spain (1995), among many other honors and distinctions, he has also received honorary doctorate degrees from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, the Sorbonne and Toronto, among others.

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