Few instrumentalists achieve legendary status during their own lifetime. Yet such a reputation must now surely be granted to the world's greatest living cellist - Msistlav Rostropovich - who celebrates his 70th birthday on 27 March. He is about to be honoured with a five-concert series at London's Barbican Hall by the London Symphony Orchestra, in which he both conducts and plays not only classics from the cello repertoire, but also a clutch of works which have been dedicated to him. In fact, it seems that very few of our century's greatest composers have not composed works with Rostropovich distinctly in mind. Prokofiev and Shostakovich wrote concerti for him; Britten his Cello Symphony and 3 Suites for solo cello. More recently, the poly-stylist Alfred Schnittke has dedicated several pieces to him. Certainly, Rostropovich's phenomenal technique and acute sense of musicianship don't appear to have deserted him as he enters his eighth decade. Yet in the first concert, tonight, Rostropovich will be wielding the baton and not the bow in Symphonies by Prokofiev and Shostakovich and Bernstein's own unique tribute to him, the Slava! Overture. Then, on 13 March, while his friend Zubin Menta conducts, Rostropovich plays the Dvorak Concerto and the imposing, and often fiendishly difficult, 1st Concerto of Shostakovich.
Slava occupies a unique place in the affections of audiences throughout the world. The LSO's Rostropovich 70 concerts look set to be a major celebration of his enduring artistry. Happy Birthday Slava!
Barbican Hall, Barbican Centre, London EC2 (0171-638 8891) tonight 7.30pm, pounds 6-pounds 30