Race slur allegation flares at Tchaikovsky contest

Race slur allegation flares at Tchaikovsky contest


norman lebrecht

June 27, 2011

The Armenian cellist, Narek Hakhnazaryan, one of the last five in his section, has been at the centre of a storm in which it was alleged that the Russian conductor Mark Gorenstein insulted his national and racial origin during a rehearsal for his concerto performance.

Gorenstein allegedly called him an aul, something like a village fiddler, a term which expresses Russian disdain for its former provinces.

Journalists who heard the remark rushed into print and the matter was brought to arbitration. Gorenstein, who is Artistic Director of the Svetlanov State Symphony Orchestra of Russia, offered an apology and has withdrawn from conducting further rounds.

Here’s the full story, just up on Tass.


Russian Symphony Conductor Apologizes for Insulting Armenian Cellist


6.27.2011 15:05 epress.am

Russian Symphony Conductor Apologizes for Insulting Armenian Cellist

Armenian cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan (pictured) has accepted the apology from conductor Mark Gorenstein for insulting remarks made during the 14th International Tchaikovsky Competition in which Hakhnazaryan is a participant. Hakhnazaryan conveyed this news himself to Russian news agency Itar-Tass.

“All is well. My head, my thoughts are now only on the competition. I am concentrating on the music for my upcoming performance in the finals,” he said.

Note, during the recital on Jun. 25, Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia (Svetlanov Symphony Orchestra) and National Artist of Russia Mark Gorenstein told the orchestra: “Don’t let it concern you at all what this talent, this aul [a small village in the mountains; meant to indicate lack of respect] presented to us is playing. Your task is to play what is written there in the score and to do it with me.” This statement offended journalists who were at the recital, after which the story gained public attention.

Since then, an official statement has appeared on the competition website, which reads as follows:

“The Organizing Committee of the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition regards as insulting the statements addressed by Artistic Director of the Svetlanov State Symphony Orchestra of Russia Mark Gorenstein to competition participant Narek Hakhnazaryan.

“We consider that words reflecting on an individual’s dignity do damage to the creative atmosphere that we have worked so hard to establish. The purpose of the Tchaikovsky Competition is to support young musicians, and every one of the competition’s organizers and participants is obliged to treat its competitors with the utmost respect.”

“I would like to explain my position regarding the incident,” Gorenstein told Itar-Tass. “First, it was a conversation within the team. Second, I assure you, I neither conveyed nor did I wish to convey any nationalist undertones in my remarks, since that is totally foreign both to me personally and to our team.”

According to the chief conductor, the orchestra he conducts is a multinational group which employs Armenian, Bashkir, Belarussian, Georgian, Jewish, Russia, Tatar and Ukrainian peoples and “never during my leadership has there been conflict on ethnic grounds.”

“I am very sorry about what happened and I offer my sincere apologies to all those who I hurt with my words,’ said Gorenstein.





  • Joe C says:

    I’m aghast ! Didn’t racism end all over the planet when we elected Obama? I ‘m as shocked as the Chief of Police when he walked into Rick’s Cafe and was “Shocked” to see that gambling was going on [Casablanca]…Actually, this kind of racism is prevalent planet – wide…. If he was a she in Saudi Arabi, they wouldn’t even be able to compete……..but this just once again displays how far the rest of the planet has to go…and how far we, as Americans, have come…..face it world, the mutts are a coming ! [50% Sicilian, 25% Irish, 25% Dutch, me.) Peace…JC

  • […] churl condcutor Mark Gorenstein insulted a well-known cellist! It's really awful. http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddi…ovsky-contest/ In fact, the majority of orchestra members hate him. Alas, there no trade-unions in Russia. He is […]

  • Asher Kelman says:

    It’s unfortunate, but true, that there’s some how a “license” to make such terrible remarks against “outsiders” as a way of increasing camaraderie in their own small internal community. It’s as if to say, “All of you guys in “my” team are just as capable as this strange candidate from far away”. Certainly, it’s out of character with the orchestra Mark Gorenstein conducts. The young musicians in the competition are all super talented and deserve respect. Mark should devote himself now to making amends by whatever means he can.

    I know from listening to some of the very best Cellists in the USA at the Colburn School of Music in Los Angeles, that that if Armenian cellists are in a special class, then it would be right at the very top. ADK