Raw video of the alleged race incident at the Tchaikovsky competition

Raw video of the alleged race incident at the Tchaikovsky competition


norman lebrecht

June 28, 2011

Here it is.

Judge for yourselves if the conductor Mark Gorenstein was making a legitmate criticism of the contestant’s playing – or whether he crossed the line into racial abuse. The soloist is Narek Hakhnazaryan.

Narek Hakhnazaryan

Here’s a rough translation.

“First thing. Do not worry about what he plays, this talent. Your task is to play what is written there in the score, and do it with me. Do not worry about this AUL that is presented here to us – this is Nashimoto’s cousin, I’ve seen it already. We don’t need this. Yes, play with me, please. Everything else is not your buisness. That first thing. Second – you play too loud. In Dvorak. You forgot, that this is not trombone. Whatever he whistles here, you should play softer than him.”

Gorenstein later apologised and withdrew from further participation in the competition.


  • Difficult to say – in print it’s really hard to make out the tone and anyway, this alleged slur is not something that carries an obvious tone of condescension for me. But that will be a cultural difference, I’m sure. He does sound quite autocratic and his last point is a statement of the bleeding obvious.

  • He is mocking the soloist, that is clear from what he says on the video. Might be he was hoping the soloist doesn’t understand Russian, but in Russian it is very ironic what kind of words he chose to use, not only “aul” but his overall tone.

  • The use of the term, ‘Aul’, in relation to Haknazaryan, was clearly intended to ‘disempower’ the performer, especially if one reads it in the context of everything else Gorenstein said. Racism is about using certain words in a deliberate, premeditated manner to intimidate. The evidence against Gorenstein is overwhelming. Let’s not take these things lightly. The growth of neo-fascist and racist groups in Russia at this current point in history is of concern. An individual with the status of Gorenstein should be held accountable. Whether its words or physical violence that is used, let’s make no mistake, it’s racist. They just occupy different positions on the ‘racist spectrum’ (as do the apologists for Gorenstein)

  • Nurhan Arman says:

    AUL remark is clearly racist. Even before this incident I had been watching the cello rehearsals and was disturbed by conductor’s negativity towards the orchestra. “Nashimoto’s cousin” may refer to the Japanese conductor Tomomi Nishimoto. This derogatory comment perhaps may have been intended to link the young cellist with Nashimoto’s way of music-making. Nashimoto had conducted the same orchestra.

  • Joe C says:

    It IS purely an ELITIST comment…Calling him an “aul” is likening him to a peasant, a villager. It is simply condescending verbage from a suposed superior elitist. WORDS MEAN things, and his use of this term clearly shows he considers himself above a simple peasant. This is not rocket science.

  • Some people are still “autocratic” in music…esspecialy conductor, esspecialy in Russia….”we know the best and only the best” is still in their minds..but music is going on, growing up, out of their minds and hearts….and continue to be one of the most important thing in our lifes….Gorensteins are out of that, alone depanding to past….and even “AULS” are recognized like well known artists!

    • Kypros Markou says:

      Gorenstein was not just “autocratic” He was blatantly disrespectful and downright unprofessional. It is totally unacceptable for a conductor to criticize let alone make derogatory comments about a soloist he is accompanying. To do so to a young, clearly outstanding talent (I had the honor to work with Narek 3-4 years ago) and especially during a major competition is downright despicable. The competition committee must never allow this conductor to conduct again at the competition.
      Another point, Mr. Gorenstein’s apology was inadequate. He intentionally avoids to apologize directly to Mr. Hacknazaryan. He uses a generic term “those I may have hurt” Shame on Gorenstein.
      Kypros Markou

      And most important CONGRATULATIONS to Narek and a big BRAVO!

  • Tom Myron says:

    Looks like ‘The Maestro Myth’ in action to me.

  • Hank Drake says:

    From the context, it looks like Gorenstein called the performer a term than in the US would translate as “a hick.” That may not be racist, but it’s certainly insulting and unprofessional.

  • There’s a not-so-terse implication of superiority in his comments, and in his demeanor – it appears, judging by the comments of those who were there.
    The important thing is that ALL of these slurring words were unnecessary and demean such an important competition. It’s certainly something Van Cliburn would not have tolerated from any director.
    I’m glad to see Gorenstein apologize and withdraw.

    • Otto Schiller says:

      Gorenstein’s remark is the worst kind of racism, and he should know better as someone of Jewish descent.

      What is disturbing about his intended superiority is the usage of the word Aul as it is applied to an Armenian. The word has Turkic origins. It is like calling Gorenstein a Shylock, which would be indeed a shameful thing to do. Shame on you, Mr. Gorenstein, for your perceived superiority.

      Postscript: Hakhazaryan actually won the gold in this competition.