Just in: Gidon Kremer cancels six weeks, blaming the music business
February 19, 2015 by norman lebrecht
The great violinist has sent a letter to friends (below), saying he’s taking six weeks rest on medical advice.
Most artists would leave it at that. But Gidon sees a moral precept in all that he does. Hit by the unexpected tour withdrawal of Daniil Trifonov, a pianist he esteems, he faced demands from promoters that he hire a famous pianist rather than a talented young partner. Gidon proposed the most recent Chopin winner. The promoters had never heard of her. So he gave up in despair.
This is the second time that Gidon has exposed the music business’s ugly dependency on phoney notions of celebrity, its preference for established fame over artistic brilliance. His is a voice in the wilderness. We need to listen to Gidon before it’s too late.
Recent activity has left me feeling bereft of energy and somewhat frustrated. I have been dealing with the emotional strain of attempting to remedy the situation caused by the cancellation of a number of important concerts to be given by Kremerata Baltica in Germany. This was the result of the decision by Daniil Trifonov (the soloist on Kremerata’s February European tour) to withdraw – after six wonderful performances and for valid reasons – from the rest of this exciting concert tour. It would have taken him and the orchestra (a unique partnership) on to Geneva, Hamburg, Berlin and Munich. The great young pianist is undoubtedly one of the most sensitive and genuine musicians with whom I have been privileged to share the stage. I therefore fully respect his decision but have been left feeling ill at ease about the promoters’ response to my proposed solutions to the problem.
I was particularly disturbed by the promoters’ focus on one “big name” only and the reluctance to consider others who would have treated the music with equal respect and professionalism. Not one of the substitutes I proposed was accepted. The Chopin competition winner and mature artist Yulianna Avdeeva was fortunately available on the required dates and would have been happy to play the two Chopin concertos originally planned, meaning that the programme, which also included works by Weinberg, Gorecki and Penderecki, would not have to be changed. She was wholeheartedly recommended not just by myself, but also by pianists of world-class calibre such as Martha Argerich, Krystian Zimerman and Daniil Trifonov himself. In fact, Daniil Trifonov was the one who approached me personally about finding a replacement. All these efforts sadly fell foul of marketing strategies.
All this gave me cause to reflect and to come to some personal conclusions. The concert series with Kremerata Baltica and Daniil Trifonov followed hot on the heels of our challenging and inspiring chamber music tour with him in the USA. As I observed – and thoroughly enjoyed – the depth of the immersion in the music by Kremerata musicians and Daniil Trifonov in preparation for the European concerts that were planned, I became increasingly aware of the limits of my own energy. This triggered the need to take action.
I have therefore decided to follow the advice of my personal physician, who has been cautioning me against over-exertion for years, and to cancel all my engagements – between now and 25 March 2015. I am aware of the uneasy consequences that this might entail for all parties involved, but I must follow my inner voice and seek peace (and health) of mind and body. It is nonetheless my firm intention to honour all previously confirmed concert dates after this short period without my usual activities.
I do hope that most of you will understand something of how I feel and my need for some “space”. I would like to express my appreciation of all friends, colleagues and promoters affected by my cancellations. I am particularly grateful to Julia Nees of June Artists, our manager, for her efforts and understanding. My special thanks also go to the members of Kremerata Baltica, an ensemble with which I have had the pleasure of playing and touring for over 18 years. I do hope that during my temporary withdrawal, solutions can be found to enable Kremerata Baltica’s concerts to continue as planned.
I consider myself a professional and a man of his word. It always hurts me to break my commitments and I sincerely apologise for doing so. Music born under pressure and tension cannot, however, serve great scores. Pretending to be focused while being over-tired is an act of deception. I consider it my duty to deliver sincere sounds – and thus to give a true reflection of the creations of wonderful composers. I would feel a “traitor” if I were to act otherwise. By taking this self-imposed step of restraint, I hope to fully absorb the lesson that schedules often imposed by managerial institutions should not tempt performing artists (including myself) to do more and more. We are often our own worst enemies in that respect and need to learn to tame our insatiable desire to be everywhere at once. We should never allow anyone to make us “tools” of the industry or to become victims of our own ambitions.
The limelight in which some of the “rising stars” seem to bask can all too easily turn against them – as often happens on the pop music scene. I simply want to remind myself and all those who share my aspirations and love for music, those with whom I have spent happy decades sharing the values of music-making on world stages, to be prudent with their energy. The recent incidents should serve as a warning to my friends and colleagues not to overdo it.
Ultimately, we should be able to live with music as a “friend”, one which allows us – as we share sounds and honour their creators – to enjoy all aspects of life. I hope to pursue that goal for many more years yet.
With best regards,
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