Gergiev is ‘made aware’ of Munich’s Crimea concerns

Gergiev is ‘made aware’ of Munich’s Crimea concerns


norman lebrecht

March 30, 2014

The conductor’s support of Vladimir Putin has not yet jeopardised his next job with the Munich Philharmonic. But the city’s ruling coalition (which funds the orchestra) is letting the orchestra council know that it will be monitoring its prospective music director’s statements in support of the Russian president’s expansionism:

“Im Philharmonische Rat wurde heute intensiv und differenziert über den persönlichen politischen Standpunkt des künftigen Chefdirigenten der Münchner Philharmoniker diskutiert. Dazu gehörte auch das Verhältnis zwischen der garantierten freien Meinungsäußerung und der Verantwortung in einer exponierten Position im Münchner Kulturleben. Der Philharmonische Rat hat sich einvernehmlich verständigt, den Kulturreferenten der Landeshauptstadt München Dr. Hans-Georg Küppers und den Intendanten der Münchner Philharmoniker Paul Müller zu bitten, mit Maestro Valery Gergiev bei seinen nächsten Aufenthalten in München ein Gespräch zu führen. Ziel ist es, ihm die aktuelle Diskussion über seine Äußerungen darzustellen und ihn für die daraus resultierende Situation des Orchesters zu sensibilisieren.”

gergiev munich


  • The statement is plainly threatening the orchestra that if Gergiev says the wrong things it will face consequences. Shameless. And of course, the discussion will be framed as Russian expansionism while ignoring that the USA and the EU are looking to expand their own hegemony.

    Germany had its eye on Eastern Europe even before the wall came down (to say nothing of a very unfortunate earlier history.) I remember a German politician already in the 80s referring to Eastern Europe as Germany’s Latin America. He did not even seem aware of the ironies in the statement. The Ukraine is the richest prize of all. Statfor (a private intelligence organization that serves corporations) discusses Germany’s new found aggressive foreign policy and its relationship to the Ukraine in this article:

    Expanding the EU eastward has brought a great deal of wealth to Germany and has upset the balance of power within the EU.

    The USA also has long had its eye on the Ukraine. There is some interesting analysis in this article:

    The powers that be in both Germany and the USA have a strong incentive to silence wayward Maestros like Gergiev and Dudamel. The intimidation and censorship reflect the cultural power top orchestras have.

    • MacroV says:

      That’s a nonsensical comparison. We all know about Nazi Germany expansionism, but modern-day Germany is in no way the same animal. And the U.S. might occasionally try to liberate a country at the point of a gun, or bring other countries into the circle of democratic states, but is not in the business of annexing foreign lands.

      I think you overstate the cultural power of top orchestras; maybe the good people running Munich simply don’t want to have in their employ someone who publicly advocates for Russian expansionism, just as they probably wouldn’t employ one who openly expressed racism, anti-semitism, etc.. Freedom of association.

    • Christy says:

      I’m sorry? When was it that the US invaded Ukraine? Hmmmm? Do tell.

      Russia forcibly redrew Europe’s borders using its military- without negotiation, without availing itself of any of the international remedies put in place to avoid another war. They wanted the land and they simply rolled in and took it using guns and tanks. Point me to the part of Ukraine that the US has invaded.

    • Dave T says:

      Censorship? From what I can tell, Gergiev is free to say whatever he wants on whatever topic he chooses. Whether he can still continue to work for the Munich Phil– and draw a very large salary from it at the same time– is what is in question.

      My employment position is exactly the same (minus most of the $$ millions which Gergiev is generously being given).

  • Gonout Backson says:

    There’s one factor missing in your fascinating exposé : the Ukrainian people, three months out in the cold, getting arrested, beaten, tortured and shot at.

    Was it you who wondered why nobody had done anything in the thirties to stop Hitler? Who condemned Furtwängler?

  • Gonout Backson says:

    “If we think of the Soviet Union as a natural grouping of geographically isolated and economically handicapped countries, we can see what held it together. The countries that made up the Soviet Union were bound together of necessity. The former Soviet Union consisted of members who really had nowhere else to go.”

    This phrase alone (your second link) disqualifies its author.

  • Mark says:

    Dear William,

    I can see that Putin’s propaganda reaches far beyond Russian borders!

    Why don’t you talk to people like myself, who had to live through the Communist era in Central Europe, before making such statements? Who had to see their families hiding for almost 50 years their mourning for relatives murdered by NKVD. Believe me, the former Soviet satellites, who are now in EU, are doing much better. Just compare the transparency and the GDP growth, the state of infrastructure and social care in countries like Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary to those countries, who are under Russian influence (Belarus, Armenia and Ukraine until recently).

    I can’t remember Dudamel being silenced. Especially that he did not have much of interest to say about the bloody events in his country. And Gergiev? Frankly, the message from Munich is ridiculous on an entirely different level. He has supported an unlawful military invasion and what he got was just a gentle pat on the hand. He has been the primary propaganda tool for Putin (just check this out: And that is entirely his own choice – just remember what choices people like Ashkenazy or Rostropovich made under much harsher circumstances.

    On the contrary – one can see that the country which made itself entirely dependent on Russian fuel (Gazprom now owns most of the gas infrastructure in Germany), whose former chancellor is now on Russian payroll, is afraid to administer some appropriately serious measures.

    You think that it is protection and human rights that Russia is bringing to Crimea? Then just google some articles on Abkhazia – the place which used to be (like Crimea) a major holiday destination on the Black Sea, and now, after a few years of Russian occupation, is so neglected that even Abkhazian refugees from Syria do not want to go there, despite being offered by the Russian government a free flight, sponsored visas, help with relocation and housing benefits 10 times higher than the local people.

    If you are such a fan of what happens in Venezuela and Russia I hope you have already made an application for one of those passports and maybe even better – moved to one of those countries. I am sure that you will be accepted with open arms in places like Sukhumi. Enjoy!

    • PR Deltoid says:

      Mark: “Why don’t you talk to people like myself, who had to live through the Communist era in Central Europe, before making such statements? […] Believe me, the former Soviet satellites, who are now in EU, are doing much better.”

      It’s worth pointing out that plenty of people who lived through the Communist era in Central Europe don’t see things quite the way you do. For example, in a 2009 poll, 72% of Hungarians said their country was better off under communism:

      Hungary led the pack, but the figures for Lithuania, Ukraine, and several other countries were also high, as you can see. By the way, autocratic Belarus has consistently done much better than democratic Ukraine in terms of economics and demographics:

      • Gonout Backson says:

        They can all have communism back anytime. At the first general election. The choice is there. If they’re that dissatisfied, they can freely leave EU and NATO. No one would invade and murder them if they do, as the Soviet Union did in Hungary in 1956.

  • The above comments illustrate the typically low niveau of the conversation regarding the Ukraine. I didn’t compare Germany today to its Nazi past but pointed out the long history of the relationships with the Ukraine, and I didn’t say the US invaded the Ukraine. Threatening one’s job to stop speech is a form of censorship. Russian history regarding the Ukraine doesn’t change the fact that the EU and USA are expanding their sphere of influence and that the conflict with Russia regarding the Urkraine was predictable and provoked. And none of my comments are an endorsement of Russian behavior. This is my last word here on this, since I am not interest in political discussion on this topic — and especially not on this level.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      Too easy, Mr Osborne.

      EU and USA “expanded their sphere of influence” because the people in Eastern Europe have decided it as soon as they had the right and the means to decide. Not one aggressive move has been made by EU and USA, on the contrary, facts prove they did much to slow down the process : ten years for NATO, fifteen years for EU.

      The conflict with Russia over Ukraine was indeed predictable (for whoever watches Russian strategy) and, indeed, provoked – by Russia, and by Russia only.

      What has “freedom of speech” to do here? Mr Gergiev is free to say whatever he pleases – and to bear the consequences. So far, they’re nothing if not soft.

      Is “this level” – the level where hard, serious arguments are voiced that give you trouble?

      • Anonymus says:

        “Not one aggressive move has been made by EU and USA.”

        Sorry, but that’s so out of touch with reality that it hurts even from the distance. Ever since the USA gave its promise during the German reunification negotiations to Russia’s predecessor Soviet leader Gorbachev, that NATO would NOT expand eastwards in return for Russia’s agreement to let East Germany reunite with the West and to withdraw its troops from all of Eastern Europe, ever since then have the belligerent fractions in the US administration done anything they could to increase their sphere of influence and to diminish Russia’s.

        Not recognizing that reality requires quite an effort in denial. Congratulations on that “achievement”, Gonout.

        • Gonout Backson says:

          There are several unsignificant points you’re missing (in your replay of the Russian stanza) :

          The promise has been made (if, indeed, it was : Shevardnadze denies it) to Mikhail Gorbachov, president of the Soviet Union. 18 months later Gorbachov was nothing, and Soviet Union has disappeared.

          If you support your Russian friends’ position concerning the Budapest agreement (we don’t owe it no respect, because Ukraine has become a different country, or something along these lines, yada yada yada), you should consider even more that NATO was not bound by a promise made to a ex-president of an non-existent state. You can’t have it both ways.

          But there is more : had the West respected this promise, it would have meant that Soviet ex-colonies’ and protectorates’ sovereignty is a joke, even after the fall of SU. That their voice, their choices et their desires are nothing, and Moscow’s NIET is everything. Apparently that’s what you think.

    • Christy says:

      And isn’t it nice that the people of Ukraine [not THE, which implies it is a part of another country and which the government has clearly stated is not part of the country name] can now CHOOSE which countries with which to trade and form relationships. If the US has more influence in Ukraine – which was not true until perhaps this month – it is because the people of the country have decided that is what they want.

      Ironically, Ukraine has balanced US and Russian partnership for two decades, with the majority of its foreign owned businesses being owned by Russians. The vast majority. Until today. Indications are that Russians are abandoning their businesses in Ukraine; the atmosphere is no longer conducive. This has only happened as the result of one thing- the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

      Russia has been screaming and whining about phantom US influence in Ukraine for years. Now, they have succeeded in converting their delusions into reality

      • Anonymus says:

        “The Russian invasion of Ukraine”? Which invasion? It’s not in the news for sure. What do you mean?

        “phantom US influence in Ukraine for years”

        I wouldn’t call 5 billion US $ for stirring up US-friendly opposition forces in Ukraine a “phantom influence”, unless you would consider the fiat currency of the US $ a “phantom currency” in which case I would concur.

  • Christy says:

    Six Ukrainian orchestras play the Ode to Joy across Ukraine to honor the 100+ Ukrainians killed last February and to demonstrate their commitment to EU principles.

  • Leon Van Dyke says:

    Does anyone know of performances by Russian artists, i.e.; Gergiev, Tretyakov, etc., being cancelled in Europe or North America as a means of protest against Putin’s latest actions?