Gergiev is summoned to Munich for clarifications

Gergiev is summoned to Munich for clarifications


norman lebrecht

March 20, 2014

Deutsche Welle reports (in Russian) that the Green faction in Munich’s city council want the Russian conductor to explain his letter of support for Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Crimea. Gergiev is due to become music director of the Munich Philharmonic next year.

The new cold war may have consequences for him.

More here (auf Deutsch).



  • Rosana Martins says:

    Is it possible to have the list of artists who signed the document pro-Putin in English? So far, I have only found it in Russian, which I don’t read!

  • G Ell says:

    For me, far worse than his support of all things Putin was the engagement of ever amplified popera tenor Andrea Bocelli for his dreadful recording of Verdi’s Requiem. That sealed his fate with me and I never looked back. And I know I am not missing anything of value in avoiding him.

    • Brian says:

      True, but in all fairness that may have been forced on him by a cynical record company. I’m not at all sure the decision was in his hands. The same company that engaged Bocelli for a number of complete opera recordings when far superior tenors were available. Norman, surely you have the inside intel on what went on there?

      • G Ell says:

        Argument has no wind on its sails. The history of recorded music is littered with tales of conductors demanding specific singers, record co be damned. It is ultimately the conductor’s decision who gets hired for what.

        • Brian says:

          You are right, conductors often have approval (as when, alas, Solti nixed Rysanek for Decca’s ELEKTRA and Collier was hired instead) but not always. I suspect Gergiev had little influence in this decision. Conductors don’t always get their way. If Gergiev truly of his own free will chose a pop crooner with little sense of even rudimentary phrasing and for whom Lloyd Webber is an artisitic stretch, that should be deplored. But he wouldn’t be the first conductor who let the dollar signs in his eyes blind him to artistic responsibility. Maazel conducted for Bocelli; and Mehta and Levine led Three Tenors concerts. Though at least they were real tenors.

      • Money speaks, as usual. And Mr. Bocelli has his fans … who may or may not know anything (or care) about real opera. I have relatives who are died-in-the-wool Bocelli fans, and believe me, you cannot argue with them about this.

        What do Maestri Gergiev et al. stand to lose by such cooperations? Absolutely nothing, because if only 1% of the Bocelli fans buy other recordings of theirs just because “Oh yeah, he conducted Bocelli”, then it was already more than worth their time. And being professional musicians, if someone wants your services and agrees to your conditions, it is not a good idea to turn down the project unless there are other mitigating circumstances.

        We should be happy that André Rieu does his own conducting!

      • Charles D. Martin says:

        Decca was getting pressure from its various distribution wings — and one particular regional head, Chris Roberts in New York (whose notoriety for putting a fast buck above quality and long-term interests, and for firing people more competent than him is a matter of record) — to exploit Bocelli in serious repertoire. Gergiev might have had the cojones to tell Decca (and Roberts) to go to hell if it weren’t for that factor of sales royalties.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      How do you know that if you haven’t listened to any of his work since the Verdi Requiem which came out over a decade ago?

      • G Ell says:

        Because long before the offending Verdi Requiem his work lacked the patina of greatness. After the Requiem there was nothing else for me to consider or reconsider about the man or his work. And then came Putin and so on.

      • Stereo says:

        Sadly unless ones radio is off

        Bocelli is rammed down ones throat or is it ears.

  • Bruce Wishart says:

    Isn’t he Principal Conductor of the World Orchestra for Peace??

  • RP says:

    Gergiev told me a long time ago he wold never go back to Munich. Interesting he would choose the Munich Philharmonic, nowhere as good an orchestra as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra where he had not behaved very well years ago.

  • Reinhold Martin says:

    The Third Reich have had lots of artists like Gergiev supporting its criminal leaders. The town of Munich should remember that and not repeat having such people on the helm of its Philharmonic Orchestra which had been in those time under the leadership of those of Gergiev kind conductors.

  • PR Deltoid says:

    So what’s the deal here? Is it now required for conductors in the “free West” to hold certain political opinions or risk losing their jobs? The irony is delicious.

    • Olaugh Turchev says:

      Indeed, and the “Green faction”… i.e. a minority group dictating its law. Next: musical choices…

      • Interesting how politics comes full circle: here the Greens vs. right-wing CSU and F.J. Strauss with the Spiegel affair, which happened many years ago. In both cases, they try (or tried) to stifle free speech which doesn’t jive with their agenda.

        The big difference here is that the Munich Philharmonic is an entity responsible only to the city of Munich without a national political responsibility

        (cf.: “Rechtsformänderung für die Münchner Philharmoniker”,

        That document (in German) is dated August 2004, so maybe things might have changed in the meantime. The orchestra of the Bavarian Radio, OTOH, is part of the ARD which is an organ of the country of Germany.

        In other words, Maestro Gergiev supporting Putin is at most a matter of “Kommunalpolitik”. But I am not a lawyer, so please correct me if this is not the case.

        • Anonymus says:

          Detail correction:

          “The orchestra of the Bavarian Radio, OTOH, is part of the ARD which is an organ of the country of Germany.”

          BRSO is funded by the BR, which is en entity in the state of Bavaria, part of the federal ARD network but purely based in the state of Bavaria. Other German states have their own broadcasting stations, also part of the ARD network. Politics have no direct control over the broadcasting stations in the ARD network. They are independent entities from the state, both in government and funding.

    • MacroV says:

      Karajan carried for his entire career the stigma of his Nazi party membership (and he wasn’t a friend of Hitler). Didn’t hurt his career, though a lot of musicians refused to play with him. Furtwangler lost a shot at MD of the Chicago Symphony because of his ties/activities in Nazi Germany, at least after a lot of Jewish musicians threatened to boycott the CSO if he was engaged.

      Some institutions might not want to do business with people who associate themselves with certain political figures. Gergiev has now endorsed Russian violation of the sovereignty of two countries- in the first case even brought his orchestra to play in the conquered territory as a sign of solidarity. You make your political statements, be prepared to pay a price.

  • Cambridge says:

    Clarify – has the council summoned Gergiev. Or is it just the Green faction who want him summoned?

  • Brian says:

    They might be better employed demanding the government take meaningful punitive action against Russia and Putin. None of the Western governments show much will to do that, do they? Their eyes and remain fixed on le veau d’or.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      At least, it could make him think. Wouldn’t be the first. I hear Lion Feuchtwanger began to suspect Soviet Union weren’t the humanist paradise he had imagined, when he learned some of his writings were censored.

  • timwalton3 says:

    There’s also a deadly silence from the LSO in London.

    I emailed them a week ago about Gergiev’s stupid comments bringing their orchestra into disrepute.

    Needless to say they haven’t even had the manners to acknowledge receipt of the email let alone make a comment.

  • Alex says:

    LSO should grow a pair and get rid of Gergiev…

    • Neil says:

      LSO could do with a clear out of all their conductors with either obnoxious views or who bully/batter musicians. The orchestra should be a beacon for all the values our city stands for for or change their name. At the moment the LSO doesn’t do anything to justify having “London” in their name except a residency at the Barbican. Shame on the management. They need to chuck Gergiev and find someone like the wonderful, late Sir Colin – a genuinely decent man who was a true figurehead for the band.

      • Jon says:

        Gergiev is due to leave next year anyway, so it would be madness for the LSO to sack him now and expose themselves to potentially very costly legal action for wrongful dismissal.

        In any case, one of the freedoms we espouse in the West is freedom of speech. Gergiev’s support for Putin may be unpalatable, but he has done nothing illegal and nothing on which the LSO could realistically base a case for dismissal.

        • Anonymus says:

          We in the west do not espouse freedom of speech anymore. We are almost back in the middle ages. Dissidents are flogged and driven through the streets by the (media driven) mob.

  • ed says:

    If the Munich local government is now going to censor or ‘slap sanctions’ on Gergiev for supporting a policy whose justification on legal grounds was articulated in Putin’s speech on March 17 (, then it would make the German Federal Government authorities under Merkel’s leadership (i.e., the real force behind it) look more ridiculous than it has to date. The Russians have been careful to follow precedent, and no one can deny that the Crimeans voted conclusively to secede from Ukraine and accede to Russia. So what’s the big deal? Maybe Scotland is next on the secession list? Or Veneto? Or Catalonia or, of course, the Basque country (see, it’s already a country)? Bill and Hillary Clinton with their political opportunism, inexperience, and lack of respect for international law helped create the problem with Kosovo (something that, ironically, even Ariel Sharon opposed). The secession-accession is a fait accomplis with possibly more to come if the new putsch government of Ukraine continues to overstep, e.g., with the outlawing of anything Russian in those provinces with strong Russian presence and roots. Ukraine is a failed state with an illegitimate government and oligarchs more loyal to themselves and foreign states and actors than their own country. It is a nation whose economy won’t be saved by the EU, or the IMF, or NATO, or Poland, or the US or the US multinationals (even if the multinationals have been poised to take over valuable, though discounted, Ukraine assets). (See: ) This new government of thugs won’t be able to handle the problems of state or even get to first base without more problems erupting. So, fasten your seat belts.

    • ed says:

      You’re right on track- the Washington Post is the neocons’ best sounding board. I love Kasparov….but as a chess player (even if he ultimately fell to the mighty IBM). The article is a diatribe that doesn’t make much sense, but thanks for posting it anyway.

  • Alexander Brown says:

    …. and one other little factoid that people seem to forget: Crimea was “given” to Ukraine by Kruschev back in the 1950’s for some reason best know to himself. Ethnically it was never really Ukrainian….

    • Anonymus says:

      That wouldn’t stop the Anti-Putin western (media) mob, stirred up by the usual suspects who would like to “invest” (read loot their resources) in that country and see Putin as the main hindrance in free access to the loot.

      Putin is quite a rational thinker, miles ahead in intellectual capabilities to most of his western counterparts (Obama, Merkel, etc.)

      Just witness a press conference by him. He speaks freely and coherent, elaborates extensively without manuscript, he is a thinker. Obama instead is an actor, hardly able to formulate intelligently above the level of short one liners without manuscript. Merkel is a parrot, she is intelligent but lacks creative vision and historic perspective.

      I’m not a fan of Putin either, but looking from his POV and reflecting about Russia’s interests and its treatment by the US lead west since the end of the 1st cold war I can’t see much wrong doing by him, quite the opposite.

        • Anonymus says:

          Except that this statement by the UK government is out of line with the realities. I know people who are there atm and give me first hand accounts. Don’t be fooled. The overwhelming majority of Crimeans want to associate with Russia rather than Ukraine, even passionately so. There is no doubt about that.

          And if we in the west accepted the will of the people in Croatia, Slovenia and Kosovo, we have by the same standards also to accept the will of the people of Crimea.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            The comparison with Kosovo was already absurd, and proved to be just that. The comparison with Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia is even more desperate. But since Falkland Islands habe been mentioned as well…

          • Anonymus says:

            You just saying that something is absurd doesn’t make it so I’m afraid. But you can have the last word. There is no point in arguing with a hate monger.

        • Olaugh Turchev says:

          “Euromaidan was composed of a cross-spectrum of ordinary Ukrainians with a common agenda to demonstrate their opposition to abuses of power and their desire to see change. It was remarkably disciplined and self-restrained. They acted only in self-defence in response to violence initiated by the authorities under the direction of former President Yanukovych.”

          That’s a cover statement destined to mask the true influence of Praviy Sektor and Svoboda, the real “bosses” on the Maidan as proven by the disproportionate number of ministers held by these movements in the self proclaimed Kiev government. Worldwide images show police forces like deers in a headlight, including many of insurgents using precision rifles with scopes. Finally the intercepted call between Estonian Paet and Baroness Ashton, and her unaffected reaction to snipers killing people from both sides, invalidates the final sentence. If Putin is no angel, rarely one paragraph has been trying to rewrite history so callously. Not exactly the Foreign Office’s finest hour.

          Next? Veneto and Venitians who at 89% -a near North Korean score…- voted for separation from Italy.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Give us the names of the Praviy Sektor ministers in the govenment, please.

            The government isn’t “self proclaimed”, since it has been appointed by a democratically elected (2012) Parliament.

            “Worldwide images” have shown us a photoshopped portrait of Hitler on Svoboda’s headquarter’s, haven’t they.

            The conversation between Paet and Ashton doesn’t “invalidate” anything, because it doesn’t prove anything : all you hear there is Paet repeating something someone told him in Kiev.

            The Venetians didn’t vote.

          • Olaugh Turchev says:

            Keep digging… LOL

        • Olaugh Turchev says:

          Baseball analogy…

          Strike 1: Read more:”

          Sure the Venitians did not vote…

          Strike 2: As for Ministers issued from Svoboda: Shvaika, Agriculture; Mohknyck, Environment; Tenyuck, Defense; Sych, vice prime minister; Parubiy, from Praviy Sektor, Secretary National Council Defense and Armies…

          Strike 3: Anyone can listen to the conversation and form their own opinion on Lady Ashton’s for the least subdued reaction…

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Venice : let’s wait for a real referendum, with practical consequences. This was just a “mock referendum” (even if less funny than the Crimea one).

            Since you pretended there were Praviy Sektor ministers (there are none), I have asked you for their names, not those from Svoboda. These are four, indeed. In the last democratic elections (2012) Svoboda got 10% and 38 MPs. The same year, the French “Greens” got 5%, one single MP – and two ministries.

            Everyone listened to the conversation – and, unless they “hear voices” like Joan of Arc, they’ve heard just what I said.

          • Olaugh Turchev says:

            If you care to re- read my comment I mentioned both Svoboda and Praviy Sektor. Your question was a coarse strawman hence my detailed reply.

            As for the “mock referendum” you twist facts: it ain’t because Rome does not recognize it that it was a not effective since “Campaigners say that the Rome government receives around 71 billion euros each year in tax from Venice – some 21 billion euros less than it gets back in investment and services.

            Organisers said that 2.36million, 73 per cent, of those eligible to take part voted in the poll, which is not recognised by the Rome government.

            The ballot also appointed a committee of ten who immediately declared independence from Italy. Venice may now start withholding taxes from Rome.

            Read more:

            Strikeout and good bye!

        • ed says:

          Re: the UK Government response to Putin’s speech: egregiously wrong on the facts, and shockingly wrong on the law, but not surprising given its particularly horrendous record in using fabricated evidence and misapplying international law to endorse every illegal war initiated by the US-NATO over the past decade or more, as well as, of course, the war in Yugoslavia. I would instead tend to go with its best diplomatic minds, e.g. of its former UK Ambassadors, such as Craig Murray, or Peter Jenkins.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            So, globally you agree with : Russia, Venezuela, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Kyrgyzstan, Uganda, Aghanistan, North Koreau, Syria, Belarus. They’re the only ones to have recognized the crimean “referendum” so far.

            The company you keep…

          • Anonymus says:

            Gonout, you are in denial of the global geopolitical realities. If the US master dictates a political stand, the rest of the so called “civilized” world today marches in lockstep. If you don’t, consequences await you…

            Fortunately we free thinking people can have free opinions and do not have to bend to will of the big satan USA. (I mean that.)

      • Alexander Brown says:

        Indeed! His address to the Duma a few days ago was an object lesson in moderation, given the circumstances!

        And how did the “West” react when Slovenia/Croatia/Bosnia wanted to secede from Yugoslavia? With encouragement (the Vatican was the first to recognise Croatia and Slovenia (both Catholic countries by the way)… So what’s different with Crimea? The result of the referendum was overwhelming, yet the “West” says it was “illegal”: was the breakup of Yugoslavia also illegal? And by whose law?

        Of course, Putin is no angel, but what politician (particularly a successful one) is? As you say, Anonymus, he doesn’t seem to be doing much wrong – for now….

        • Gonout Backson says:

          “What’s different with Crimea”? Do you really want the list ?

          • Anonymus says:

            You mean like the Crimea only changing as an inside Soviet administrative act from Russian into Ukrainian administration after 1954 as a “birthday present” by Ukrainian born Soviet leader Khrushchev, while Kosovo was part of Serbia since 1912, and part of the Osman Empire including Serbia for 400 years before?

            Do you mean that list?

          • Alexander Brown says:

            Well, if we are going down that path, we would end up with the notion that since most of Europe used to belong to the Roman Empire, perhaps Italy (or more specifically, Rome) would have a claim to it now! The idea that a country or region USED to belong to a certain administrative organisation – a ‘government’ if you will – does not mean that it should de facto continue to do so, otherwise the map of Europe, the USA (formerly British, Spanish and French colonies) and other parts of the world would be very different….

          • Alexander Brown says:

            Thanks for this one! the point is made even more beautifully!

          • Anonymus says:

            Alexander, your argument is nonsense. In no referendum Europeans would vote for belonging to the Roman Empire anymore. And 2000 years ago and 20 years ago is also a distinctive difference.

            The will of the living people is a major political force. Ancient political borders are not.

          • Alexander Brown says:

            That is precisely the point I am making! Perhaps you did not understand my irony!

    • Christy says:

      “Ethnically,” it wasn’t ever Russian, either, until Stalin resettled or killed the Crimean Tatars and replaced them with Russians – as Putin is doing today once again to the Tatars and now also Ukrainians. (Stalin followed the first resettlement of Catherine the Great).

      The difference today, of course, is that Putin is “allowing” the indigenous people of the Crimea to be resettled to mainland Ukraine (leaving all of their property, naturally) to become refugees there. He s also kindly allowing what is a very significant Jewish population to become refugees also. So much for protecting the Jews from those terrifying fascists, right?

      If one checks FB or any social media, one can easily find the families in and around Kyiv on the list to house displaced Tatars and Jews, and daily news of the arrival of new refugees chased out of Crimea. In another country, it may be a humanitarian disaster – over 100,000 could be displaced.

      It was barely a decade after Stalin’s resettlement that Ukraine was transferred to Ukraine – not a significant amount of time to become “Russian.”

      The sad thing is I believe that Russians and their shills now may actually believe their propaganda. Very dangerous.

      • Anonymus says:

        There are no “indigenous people” to the Krim in the strict sense, everybody who settled there appeared at some time along some others who settled there even earlier. Including the Tatars.

      • Alexander Brown says:

        You are of course quite correct – and it is indeed a dangerous situation: remember Milosevic’s speech about “you are not alone” (referring to Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia) and what that unleashed?

    • Reinhold Martin says:

      And what for instance is the matter with the USA? Ethnicallywise?

      • Anonymus says:

        The USA cleansed the conquered territory from all the indigenous people in a massive genocide, those who had not died were pressed into ghettos, called reservations, and then the whole country was taken over by the European immigrants. African people were used as slaves. Asian people were used as cheap labor semi-slaves.

  • Gonout Backson says:

    You mentioned both to make some of your readers believe there were indeed some Praviy Sektor ministers in the government. There are none, so you lied.

    The venetian referendum was a “mock” one not because Rome doesn’t recognize it, but because the voters knew it would have no practical consequences. So “effective” it’s not, because it has no effect. Another clumsy manipulation.

    • Olaugh Turchev says:

      LOL because Svoboda is better perhaps… And I thought Venitians did not vote…

      And I am quite surprised your insults are not moderated.

  • Christy says:

    Comments from Mosche Reuven Asman, Chief Rabbi Hasidic Jews (Chabad – Lubavich Movement), Ukrainian Congress of Jewish Religious Communities.

    “Last week the Head of Ukrainian Jewish Congress, Vadim Rabinovich, and I have contacted all Rabbis of all Ukrainian regions and enquired regarding any instances of alleged anti-Semitism. Not one Rabbi reported anything out of the ordinary.”

    “There is no anti-Semitism in Ukraine, as such. However, I believe that groups interested in promoting such beliefs could find a way provoke and support such thoughts.”