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WATCH: Mstislav Rostropovich – ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’

Whenever I hear this recording, I get goosebumps, and for two reasons.

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One, I go back to my days as a callow youth in Navy Boot Camp. At Regimental Parade Saturday Mornings I’m lined up with thousands of others in our spiffiest dress whites awaiting inspection, when in the not-so-distance a band strikes up. We stand there rigidly as the music gets nearer and nearer, and shortly seems to fill the whole universe with the now-thunderous martial strains. It’s without a doubt the most stirring musical piece ever written.

Secondly. In February of 1990 the U. S. National Symphony Orchestra traveled to the Soviet Union for a concert at the Moscow Conservatory. Fabled Russian Exile Mstislav Rostropovich conducted. He led a flawless performance of largely Russian Classics. At the end he returned to the podium, lifted his baton, and launched into this now legendary performance. Stars and Stripes Forever. The audience of Soviets, stacked with prominent Communists was transfixed.

I don’t know if there was a connection, but shortly after, in that same year, the soviet Union dissolved. I like to think this performance piece was the West’s Ultimate Weapon, slaying our Cold War Enemy after 50 years.


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