Hundreds sign anti-Gergiev protest in Munich

Hundreds sign anti-Gergiev protest in Munich


norman lebrecht

April 06, 2014

Russian and Baltic emigrés have launched a petition calling on Chancellor Merkel and the Bavarian President Horst Seehofer to veto the appointment of Valery Gergiev as music director of the Munich Philharmonic.

They argue: ‘For the first time since 1938, a European State has stolen part of the internationally recognized territory of a neighboring country when Russia occupied and annexed the Crimean peninsula. … A letter to the Russian people in support of this “Anschluss” was signed among others by conductor Valery Gergiev, violinist Vladimir Spivakov, violist Yuri Bashmet, pianist Denis Matsuev…. Here in Munich, we must be particularly sensitive to any sign of political immorality. Therefore, we ask: How can Valery Gergiev can become chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra How can a German State Orchestra be led by a man who actively supports Russian military interventions?…’

Read (and, if you agree) sign the petition here.



  • Signed, but with heavy heart. Who can blame a musician for currying favour with the political elite? But like any gamble with such high stakes, it comes with risk. Putin is now as much a liability for Gergiev as he was previously an asset. It remains to be seen whether the friendship was expedient or heartfelt as the maestro makes his next choice.

    • Boom says:

      >> Who can blame a musician for currying favour with the political elite? <<

      Furtwangler, Gieseking,and Karajan got plenty of blame for just that – not to mention the process of de-Nazification. And Furtwangler's proposed post-war appointment at Chicago was derailed by the same considerations as those currently raised against Gergiev's appointment in Munich.

  • PR Deltoid says:

    Hm, is there an anti-petition petition I can sign, opposing political litmus tests for musical office?

  • Alex Klein says:

    If we will go down this path, then we might as well boycott the music of Aram Khatchaturian. Wasn’t he pals with Stalin, even criticizing the work of Shostakovich? Gambini and Salieri should also come under attack, for these musicians also clung to the aristocracy and opposed Mozart. Let’s all play Hindemith because he left Germany in the 30’s, and stop playing Richard Strauss because he stayed through the end of the war. Mixing arts and politics will never work, and witch hunts should not be welcome in our midst. Gergiev is entitled to his opinion, for patriotic or other reasons belonging to him only.

    • Those guys are all deceased, so there is no political gain from boycotting them. FYI, Strauss shouldn’t be on your list, because his daugher-in-law was Jewish and he helped save her and his grandchildren and spoke against Nazi antisemitism.

      Despite accepting the post as president of the Reichsmusikkammer (to which he was appointed by Goebbels, backed by the threat of force, without even having been consulted), Strauss was no lover of the Nazi regime, saying in 1933 “I consider the Streicher-Goebbels Jew-baiting as a disgrace to German honour, as evidence of incompetence – the basest weapon of untalented, lazy mediocrity against a higher intelligence and greater talent.”

      His publisher, Adolf Fürstner, was Jewish and he composed his comic opera, Die schweigsame Frau, with his Jewish friend and librettist Stefan Zweig. When in 1935, he wrote to Zweig,”Do you believe I am ever, in any of my actions, guided by the thought that I am ‘German’? Do you suppose Mozart was consciously ‘Aryan’ when he composed? I recognise only two types of people: those who have talent and those who have none,” the letter was intercepted by the Gestapo, sent to Hitler and Strauss was subsequently fired as Reichsmusikkammer president.

      Moreover, Strauss’s only son, Franz had married Alice von Grab, a Jewish woman, in a Catholic ceremony in 1924, so Strauss’s own daughter-in-law was Jewish, and there was evidence quickly smothered by Nazi officialdom of his having Jewish ancestry himself. The couple gave Strauss two grandsons, Richard and Christian, both doted on by their grandfather. Strauss used his influence to prevent the boys or their mother being sent off to concentration camps, and when during a brief absence in 1938, Alice was placed under house arrest in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, he secured her release. Alice and Franz were at one point abducted by the Gestapo and ultimately placed under house arrest until the end of the war.

      Given these travails, it’s a great pity that Strauss was subsequently maligned as Nazi sympathiser. He was nothing of the kind. Strauss managed to stay alive until after the war, and saved the lives at least of the Jewish members of his family. That surely counts for something.

      • Thank you for that, Derek. Very eloquently put.

      • michael endres says:

        @ Derek Thank you for a very rational posting which is a nice change from the recurring attempts to suggest that Strauss was a Nazi ,which is a tired old canard .

        Interesting for me is the more and more vanishing freedom of opinion in the West. If you don’t believe in the official policies your career could be severely affected. “Political immorality ” they claim on their manifesto in Munich .

        Well, we had a bit of that in the past,didn’t we ? The Iraq war springs to mind , an illegal war by any standards led by the US and some of its allies.More than 100.000 civilian deaths are reported .Did anybody get sacked or refused a job because he supported it ? I don’t think so.

        Lying US top officials , a lying UK prime minister , no big deal really until today.

        Imagine the Russians would have been responsible for that war and its outcome……

        I do not support Putins actions regarding the Ukraine but I have certain doubts that curtailing freedom of opinion is the right way to go.

        • Michael – that’s an excellent point, and I can’t say I have an immediate response to it other than to observe that there should have been far more serious repercussions internationally for the USA over at least the second Iraq war, and that it’s a wonder Russia hasn’t resorted to the old Soviet tactic of “Whataboutism”:

  • Tom Foley says:

    Hilary Clinton recently compared Hitler and the Sudetenland to Putin and Crimea. Many thought it was quite a stretch. One or two commentators thought she might even have lost any chance she ever had of winning the presidency by making such an outlandish remark. But yet, hundreds in Munich signed a petition arguing that “For the first time since 1938, a European State has stolen part of the internationally recognized territory of a neighboring country when Russia occupied and annexed the Crimean peninsula.”

  • ed says:

    Well, nice to hear that some of the old boycott crew are doing a reality check and not only having, but also expressing some second thoughts, even if they don’t yet add up to an epiphany.

  • Samuel Williams says:

    So, they protest Gergiev, mainly because he’s close to a politician who backed minor Anti-gay laws. Minor, because they have virtually no impact due to freely available information on the web.

    But they accept American conductors despite the US have states which are working on allowing companies to ban gay employees. That even such discussions are allowed is unacceptable and should receive huge outrage in European media, but virtually noone is reporting this.

    • I don’t know how much you’ve read about the impact of the “minor anti-gay laws” on Russian homosexuals, but it’s anything but minor, and has effectively extinguished their citizenship, exposing them to legitimated and ubiquitous persecution.

      “Let them speak” live television debate:

      How Russia enforces its ban on “gay propaganda”:

      1. It is illegal in Russia to say you are gay openly, if a person under 18 years of age even MIGHT be present. A 14 year old girl Maria Novikova was recently charged with “homosexual propaganda to minors” after she came out as a lesbian to her classmates: and

      2. Even though the Age of Consent for same sex relationships is currently 16, the same as for heterosexuals, it is illegal to provide counselling to 16-17 year old LGBT on this matter.

      3. It is illegal to protest against your mistreatment if you are disadvantaged by Russia’s recriminalisation of homosexuality, and you will be arrested and fined if you hold up a piece of paper in the street; Dimitry Isakov was reported to the authorities by his own parents: Likewise for the Italian politician Vladimir Luxuria visiting Russia for the Sochi Olympics

      4. It IS however, lawful for you to sack someone from their employment solely because they are gay or lesbian: Russian newscaster Anton Krasovksy was sacked on the spot after coming out as gay. This would not happen to a heterosexual:

      5. It IS legal to evict us from our living accommodation because we are LGBT

      6. When gangs attack young gay men and post thousands of videos of the torture online that identify the crime in progress, and recruit hundreds of gangs in all major cities across Russia to do the same or worse, the police take no action. and The one and only person ever charged for violence against gays was given a suspended sentence, and was cheered out of the courtroom by his supporters.

      7. It is legal to incite violence against LGBT people, and to call for all gays “to be burned alive in ovens”. Celebrity actor Ivan Okhlobystin was cheered by the audience when he called for this:

      8. It is legal to say our organs should be buried or burned as “unfit for the continuation of human life”, and if you are Dmitry Kiselyov and say this to a cheering Russian TV audience, you will be promoted to CEO of Vladimir Putin’s national news network and

      9. It is legal to defame homosexuals as pedophiles, especially if you are President of Russia:

      10. A new law is waiting for re-introduction in the Duma after Sochi ends, by United Russia party member Andrei Zhuravlyov that will seize even the biological children from their lesbian or gay parent and place them in the care of Russia’s notorious orphanage system: and

      11. At the next federal Russian elections, there will be a referendum sponsored by the Russian Orthodox Church, to make same sex relationships once again a criminal offence in a return to the Stain laws. Recent opinion polls show support for this is likely to exceed 80%, making it a certainty to be carried:

      Russians have been lied to by their government so they now honestly believe:

      1. Homosexuals are made and not born

      2. Homosexuals are predators who are after their children

      3. Homosexuals are out to make the whole straight world into homosexuals

      4. Homosexual orientation is directly linked to immorality

      5. Homosexuality is spread via “propaganda”

      6. Homosexuality is a Western phenomenon, and is “anti-Russian”

      7. Homosexuals can be turned into heterosexuals by persecuting us

      8. By converting gays ‘back’ into straights, the declining Russian birth rate will be reversed.

      All of these statements are 100% wrong. They are misperceptions that are being used as excuses for abuse. Their belief that gays are pedophile, immoral, predatory inbreds are based on these lies. Activist pressure from outwith Russia has been sought by LGBT activists within the country because they are now forbidden to disclose their sexual orientation in public, or to protest about mistreatment. They have been silenced.

      • Olaugh Turchev says:

        Homosexuality antipropaganda laws are voted in Russia while pedophiles roamed free in UK music schools… Take your pick.

        • Democracy in Russia isn’t fully matured, and so many people there still have the idea that the majority has its own way at the expense of the minority, just like bullies. But Tyranny of the Majority isn’t the same as Democracy. A democracy is governing of the people, by the people, for ALL the people, not just the winners of a particular election. President Obama explained this cogently in his election victory speeches 2008 and 2012, and it’s a truism for Westminster-style government in most Commonwealth countries.

          Human rights belong to all persons irrespective or race, gender or sexual orientation. They are not subject to the popular vote. If they were, then you would end up with the white majority in the USA voting on the rights of African Americans who constitute a mere 14% of the US population.

          More on this from the United Nations:

          As for your claim that “pedophiles roam free in UK music schools”, that scarifying accusation is unsubstantiated by any evidence adduced by you. Of course pedophiles can “roam” anywhere until they’re caught. Then their “right to roam” becomes very severely curtailed indeed. There has been the recent case of a certain Mr Doggett documented on these pages, if that’s whom you’re talking about, but that is subject to ongoing investigation. He’s hardly the norm for British music teachers, or we’d have known about it by now. Pedophile teachers of ANY subject aren’t allowed to “roam free”. They’re stood down and prosecuted, and can never work in the profession again.

          Try sticking to facts if your ambition is to make a convincing argument.

      • Samuel Williams says:

        Of course, I don’t agree with the Russian law, howevery that one is minor in comparisation to the tries in the US to allow companies to ban gay people from working in certain companies.

        You list very much about Russia, but don’t mention anything about the US. This is a one-sided view, which is the essence of my complaint.

        Russia is by far not the only country in this world where gay people are mistreated. Even in our lovely, great, fantastic, superb and very democratic “west” we have issues in that field, which need to be resolved. Clean your own front yard beforecomplaining about the dirt in other people’s front yard, I say!

        • Did you not read the 11 points and follow the links in my post further up the thread? How can these outcomes be in any sense termed “minor”?

          No-one is saying the US, or any other country for that matter, gets a pass on mistreatment of LGBT minorities, least of all me. The fight for equal and fair treatment of minorities in one country is not mutually exclusive of that in another. But the situation is clearly different, given that the President of the USA and the majority of the US population openly support LGBT equality, including same sex marriage, now legal in 18 US states, whereas President Putin supports the anti-gay law and has made it clear he considers homosexuals such a serious threat to children they need a special law to protect them from us. There was no more evidence of this alleged “danger” that we supposedly pose to children, than there was that Jews were a “danger to Aryan children” as alleged by the Nazi regime. The rationale is the same: stigmatise a minority too small to gain the ascendancy and heap all the troubles of the nation on them as scapegoats.

          My list is “about Russia” because this page is about Gergiev, a Russian national who has aligned himself with the Putin regime and all that connotes. Russia thrust itself into the spotlight because it is a first world country with historic ties to European art, culture and politics, and yet it still saw fit to further marginalise an already stigmatised minority, too small in number to defend itself, for very questionable motives and appalling outcomes.

  • John Borstlap says:

    It depends upon circumstances whether art can be politically neutral. The illigal annexation of the Krim can be disputed with the, strictly speaking, illegitimate ousting of a chosen Ukrainian president, after which Mr Putin wanted to protect his military fleet station, which makes sense. The whole Krim crisis is a complex mess of different interests and crossing of boundaries, real ones and psychological ones. Gergiev should have distanced himself from it right at the start… Now his acceptance to be used as an instrument that should help to legitimize Putin’s rather undemocratic regime, reveals him as a naive opportunist, like Strauss (elsewhere discussed in these columns). Indeed Gergiev should not be allowed to fill the Munich post, giving him the opportunity to reflect upon his position as an embassador of Russian musical culture and the difficulties this creates in moral terms.

    I think Gergiev is, by now, in a position to take a politically independent stance, whatever his personal opinions may be. He could, for instance, defend the Krim’s annexation but in the same time, criticize the way in which it has been done. Or, defend the rights of Ukrainian Russians and criticize the unwise interventions of the EU in the revolutionary upheavel that led to the fall of the president (who seems to have been a scoundel, by the way). In short: show a bit of character.