Beat the last retreat: high-handed conductor is finally fired

Beat the last retreat: high-handed conductor is finally fired


norman lebrecht

October 02, 2011

Mark Gorenstein, who caused a stir by abusing an Armenian soloist at the Tchaikovsky competition, has been dismissed from his post with the Svetlanov Orchestra by the Russian Ministry of Culture.

Last week, most musicians in Gorenstein’s orchestra refused to come off the bench in rehearsal – a kind of Carlos Tevez routine, though by players far less well paid.

The standoff lasted four hours, with Gorenstein sitting almost alone on stage. Now the Minister of Culture, Alexander Avdeev, has told the Interfax agency that “the confrontation in the orchestra has reached a level so high that no other solution was possible.”

Gorenstein has been dismissed.

Here’s the report (in Russian). The players have told the ministry they want Valery Gergiev or Alexander Lazarev as their next chief. Some hopes.



  • Marie Lamb says:

    Hi Norman–I don’t see any hyperlink to the Russian report. Just thought I should let you know! Thanks–Marie

    • Dafydd Llywelyn. Composer in Munich. says:

      Dear Norman, i have just discovered the bad news coming out of Moscow concerning the unfortunate “artistic diferences of opinion “between the young Armenian Cellist & the very excellent conductor Mark Gorenstein during the Competition there. I’ve also read All of the various opinions of the people writing in about it ! – After much thought & deliberation on this matter,i have more than a faint suspicion that behind this terrible mess & dismissal of Gorenstein, that there is a massive intrigue going on there against Gorenstein. Could it be of an ” Anti-Semitic ” natur ? I have known Gorenstein as a friend, colleague, conductor for many years, & i don’t for one minute believe in all those “hearsay comments,rumours, & accusations against him of being racist & fascistic in his attitude towards others.Surely a conductor is allowed to offer his private opinion to his own orchestra members without someone listening in with microphones still working ,& not switched off as they should have been.That reminds me of KGB methods of the past ! Mark himself is Jewish,& that fact alone in Russia at the moment is no Joke as you might have heard. Furthermore his multi cultural with members of mixed religious beliefs coming from all over the Ex-Soviet States,like Georgia,Armenia,Uzbekistan etc.The last time i saw him in Munich he bitterly complained to me that 3 members of his Orch.were attacked & beaten up on the street at night after a Concert in Moscow by a gang of ever increasing Nazis there.Needless to mention that 2 of them were Jewish,& the other from Uzbekistan of Korean background.They all had to have several operations, & their precious instruments were destroyed! Mark is a hard line disciplinarian conductor with a Soviet Musical Education,& No rehearsal or concert for him is mere routine or an automatic pilot approach to Music. It is a matter of ” Life & Death ” for him ! We have known in past times conductors who really take the Music so seriously one doesn’t know if the conductor or orchestra for that matter are going to survive the evening concert,for example the marvellous Mahler conductor Klaus Tennstedt who created unbelievable inspiring creative Tension in his perfomances, hailed & accepted in the UK & other countrys,but unjustly treated in his own country of Germany, & like Gorenstein for years fighting for his health. Gorenstein has been in & out of Hospital for various operations for Cancer. It’s like hitting a man when he’s down on the Ground being unable to defend himself. No one is perfect as Billy Wilder once commented. Not all Conductors are, or can be as friendly as eg, Pierre Boulez, or the late lamented J P ( Sir John Pritchard ) I remember when Sir Colin Davis first came to Munich to succeed my Mentor the Soviet disiplinarian Kyrill Kondrashin who died before he could take over from Kubelik at the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orch. At the time they badly needed a “Soviet General” like Kondrashin who was very strict but very colleagial when things went well. When Sir Colin came,he treated the Orchestra as if it was an English Orch, & he was accused of being too friendly being an English Gentleman. They just weren’t used to being treated as being democratic equals. One just can’t win,& one can’t please everyone.Other countrys other ways. Some conductors are more choleric than others. Without discipline one cannot command respect, & without respect one cannot win the trust & love of the Musicians,& without that combination the Musical results wil remain mediocre of conventional boredom which can lead to the death of Music. I remember two occasions when Mark had problems, but on both occasions he was right. Once in Italy he was conducting a very talkative undisciplined orch. totally unconcentrated lacking good manners,& Marks soloist was my close friend the very friendly Boris Berezovsky. The ochestra just wouldn’t stop their Nattering, & Mark then was at the end of his tether & ” flipped out ” & told them off quite rightly so,but the orch.protested. Mark & Boris couldn’t speak Italian & the Orch.couldn’t understand Russian or English very well.Somehow or other Boris miraculously saved the day through his friendly & diplomatic way with both parties with his hands & feet. I’m sure that Ricardo Muti has a few songs to sing about bad behaviour in Italian Orchestras ! ? The other occasion was in Germany when Mark was touring with his Orch. The German promoter phoned me at my home & begged me to take the next plane as there was danger that Mark might cancell. I arrived at the Airport & Mark & the Promoter met me, & Mark as good as gold as if nothing was wrong carried my bags & insisted in chaufering me personally in the promoters car. The problem was that some members of his orch.couldnt sleep properly as they were 2 people to 1 room, & some snored ! Mark was defending his i told the promoter that Choirs can share rooms,but normally it’s not advisable with orch.musicians unless they are friends & want to share rooms during a gruelling tour ! Within 1 hour over several cups of Tea & glasses of Vodka & Humour,the problem was solved & every one was happy. This whole problem & missunderstandings with Mark Gorenstein has snowballed in an uncontrollable, widely exagerated hysterical manner beyond comprehension. I fear that the Russian Minister for Culture has been wrongly advised with the sacking of Gorenstein. It’s not for nothing that he was made successor to Svetlanov. Just listen to his magnificent 10th.Symphony of Shostakovitch, & 9th.Symphony of Mahler just to mention a few. The Proof is in the Pudding. The losers in this case is not only the conductor,but the Orchestra & the Audiences not to mention Russian National Cultural Prestige & reputation. Let us not forget that ” a man is innocent untill his guilt is proven in a court of law ” -AND who have they got left in Moscow with experiance who would be really qualified to take over & withhold that very high standard that Gorenstein created & continued after the Svetlanov period ? ? – Sincerely, Dafydd Llywelyn.