Russian President Vladimir Putin has awarded renowned cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich with a state medal, the Kremlin said Monday.
Putin signed a decree awarding Rostropovich with the Order of Service to the Fatherland, First Degree, for his "outstanding contribution to the development of world music and many years of creative activity," the presidential press service said.
Rostropovich, 79, was hospitalized earlier this month for unspecified reasons — first in Paris and then in Moscow. His hospitalization was revealed when the Kremlin said Putin had visited him in a Moscow hospital on Feb. 6.
Two Russian newspapers later reported that Rostropovich was being treated at Russia's leading cancer clinic, but aides declined to comment on the reports. His spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment Monday on his health or the honor.
Rostropovich went into exile from the Soviet Union with his family in 1974 after housing dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn for four years, which cost him his Soviet citizenship.
Three years after his exile, he became music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington. He held that the position until 1994 and retains the title conductor laureate.
Rostropovich developed close musical relationships with three of the mid-20th century's leading composers — Sergei Prokofiev, Benjamin Britten and Dmitri Shostakovich, his teacher. He commissioned dozens of works for cello from them and others.