In 1939, Dale Carnegie published a self-help book entitled How to Win Friends and Influence People, suggesting you could change people's behavior to you by changing YOUR behavior toward them. We’re not sure if Carnegie’s book was ever translated into Russian, but we’d like to cite the case of the famous Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich as an example of one way to influence a particular composer.
In Rostropovich’s day, the greatest living Soviet composers were Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich. In 1949 Prokofiev wrote a Cello Sonata for the 22-year old Rostropovich, and also dedicated his 1952 Sinfonia Concertante for cello and orchestra to him.
Not surprisingly, Rostropovich hoped Shostakovich might write something for him, too, and so asked that composer’s wife, Nina, how to ask him. She replied the best way was NEVER to mention the idea in the presence of her husband. She knew Shostakovich was following the cellist’s career with interest, and if the idea of writing something for Rostropovich was his own, rather than somebody else’s, it stood a better chance of becoming reality.
Rostropovich followed her advice, and — surprise surprise — on today’s date in 1959, gave the premiere performance with the Leningrad Philharmonic of a brand-new cello concerto specially-written for him by Dimtri Shostakovich.