Player urges Concertgebouw to protest gay oppression in Russia

Player urges Concertgebouw to protest gay oppression in Russia


norman lebrecht

October 22, 2013

A viola player of the Royal Concertgebouw, Vincent Peters, has urged the Orchestra to make a statement on Russian LGBT-policies during its forthcoming tour in November.

“It is the policy of the Orchestra that during tours to countries where human rights are under pressure, e.g. China and Abu Dhabi, efforts are made to build bridges via music and master classes.” The Dutch gay rights movement COC suggested to change the program and play Tchaikovsky instead of Mahler.

After a meeting with leaders of the Dutch GLBT-movement, the Orchestra

decided that no statements will be made during the tour.

In November, the King and Queen of the Netherlands plan to visit Moscow for a concert by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Mariss Jansons conducting Mahler II). It is the first time in 40 years that the orchestra goes to Russia. Queen Maxima is the patron of the orchestra.

There is diplomatic tension between Russia and the Netherlands since a Russian diplomat was arrested by Dutch police and a Dutch diplomat was beaten up in his apartment in Moscow and had LGBT scrawled on the bathroom mirror and a Dutch Greenpeace Vessel was seized by Russian marine and its crew accused of piracy.

The concert is part of the last part (Asia and Australia) of the world

tournee of the Concertgebouw orchestra. The RCO claims to be the first

orchestra to play in the fice continents in the same year. Ironically,

the visit of the Dutch Royals to Russia marks the end of the

celebrations of the Russian-Dutch friendship year.

jansons turangalila




  • unambarry says:

    Just wish orchestras and opera companies would just get on and do the job they are paid to do, and not start makingpolitical statements about one bit of human rights over another. The audience also has rights too – if only to hear the music that was advertised and for which they have bought tickets!

  • I would be curious to know whether Vincent Peters is subjected to any disciplinary action against him; then again, perhaps Dutch orchestral managers are more enlightened than the LPO’s Timothy Walker, and value the right of players to express political views and sign petitions, however controversial or unpopular.

    • Malcolm James says:

      But I doubt if Vincent Peters’ remarks will offend any influential donors!

    • James Crombie says:

      Crucial difference – the LPO players publically assigned their names as members of the LPO to a political pronouncement. Mr Peters is giving his opinion and proposing that the KCO issue a political pronouncement in its own right. The LPO players were not disciplined for their expression of a political view, but for doing so without authority and giving the impression they were speaking as representatives of the LPO.

      • Malcolm James says:

        It is standard practice for academics to give their position and name institution when writing a letter to a newspaper. This is merely to show that they have knowledge and authority and does not imply that their institution necessarily agrees with their views. Similarly, I did not assume when I read the letter from the members of the LPO that they were expressing anything other than a personal view. They merely wanted to demonstrate that they were practising professional musicians and therefore had an active interest in the issue.

  • Greg Hlatky says:

    Putin’s comment boiler room cranks up in 3… 2… 1…

  • Steve Foster says:

    I blame those who head the orchestras and their lack of enforcing a “no platform” rule. I suspect this will change after reading their “No statement-statement.”

    The RCO’s “response” article in English:

    Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is looking forward to concerts in Russia

    Following recent reports in the press, The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra would like to clarify a few things about his performances in Russia. The concerts, on 8 November in St. Petersburg and on 9 and 10 November in Moscow have been scheduled for the past three years and are part of the world tour for the occasion of its 125th anniversary. The orchestra welcomes the presence of the King and Queen at the first concert in Moscow.

    The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra gives concerts in countries around the world with which the Netherlands has diplomatic relations.

    The orchestra has long had great diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Hence, exploratory talks are taking place with various interest groups, including this morning with the COC.

    Concerning the concerts in Russia, the orchestra will not take any action. The management hopes that policy makers and human rights organizations view these concerts as an opportunity for various meetings and conversations, and create a platform for dialogue, now and in the future.

    On 8 November in St. Petersburg we will play Mahler’s Second Symphony. The first concert in Moscow will have Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (soloist Yefim Bronfman) and Ein Heldenleben by Richard Strauss on the program. During the second concert in Moscow Mahler’s Second Symphony will be repeated.

    After the concerts in Russia, the orchestra continues its world tour with trips to China, Japan and Australia.

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    NB it is not the by now also Royal Concertgebouw that is involved, and Vincent Peters is not a member of the Royan Concertgebouw, but it is the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, a different organization, with a different management. The orchestra travels to Russia. #Sasha: there is no sign of any disciplinary action, and this would be quite unthinkable in the Netherlands. Whether the orchestra in any way will along with Vincent Peters remains to be seen. Probably both parties are thinking of at least some sign.

  • Lauren says:

    Good for Vincent Peters! I hope his position becomes policy. I am a lifelong musician and love music ,ore than anything but human rights comes before entertainment. The “it’s not my problem” attitude has bred all manner of horror throughout history and into the present day.

  • Mikey says:

    Yes, you’re absolutely correct.

    Ticket sales and audience expectations should always trump human rights. How incredibly selfish of terrorized minorities to expect support from musicians.

    As a matter of fact, I think opera houses should stop performing works that had political origins, like so many of Verdi’s operas.

    Let’s eliminate anything that might be misconstrued as political statement in all of music, because after all, in the great battle between ticket sales and human rights, who really cares about human rights, right?

  • Is that really the acronym of the Dutch Gay Rights Movement?

  • Mikey says:

    If that were all that the Russian laws were actually doing, it WOULD seem like “child’s play”. But it isn’t.