Did soloist play Ukrainian encore to provoke Gergiev?

Did soloist play Ukrainian encore to provoke Gergiev?


norman lebrecht

June 17, 2014

Czech media are aflutter with discussion of the unusual encore played by Yeol Eum Son after her Prague concerto last week with the Czech Philharmonic and Valery Gergiev. Son sat down and played a piece by Nikolai Kapustin, a distiguished Ukrainian composer.

Many Czechs, sensitive to such things after 1968, think it was a political response to Gergiev’s support for Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea. 

Here’s the pair in concert.


gergiev ukrainian

And here’s the piece she played as encore.


  • Delbert Grady says:

    Kapustin was born in Ukraine but has lived in Russia most of his life. I don’t know what citizenship he holds or what ethnicity he claims. Given this lack of clarity it’s hard to consider this any kind of “political response.”

    Prokofiev BTW was also born in Ukraine, but is universally considered a Russian composer.

  • Vince says:

    I highly doubt she had any political intent. I’ve followed her playing for years and she absolutely adores the works of Kasputin. It may have been unusual for the Czech audience but not for the performer or her fans.

  • Daniel says:

    I saw the concert and I don’t think anyone from the audience picked up what it was. Not even the Czech Press Agency figured out the encore and even members of the Czech Philharmonic themselves didn’t know until the next day.

    Kapustin comes from the separatist region in Eastern Ukraine, so it’s hard to see if it’s a pro-Gergiev or an anti-Gergiev gesture. Besides Yeol Eum Son has been playing Kapustin’s pieces as encores long before the annexation of Crimea. She’s also a regular with the Mariinsky Theatre, so why would she provoke Gergiev?

    Sympathetic idea but most likely only an idea. Gergiev watched the piece from the side of the stage. There was one demonstrator before the concert handing out leaflets with “Say no to propaganda!” written in Russian, asking the public to show them to Gergiev. Supposedly. I stood on the Rudolfinum stairs for twenty minutes before the concert and didn’t notice anyone. But the Czech Philharmonic did ask police prior to the concert to send more uniformed men to the area.

    • Christy says:

      The “separatist region” is the region that NATO has confirmed has been invaded by Russian military, with hundreds of Russian soldiers sent in to the area. It’s an occupied region at best. At worst it’s chaos.

      When a significant portion of bodies of “separatists” are found to be Russian citizens and have to be returned to Russia, it ain’t separatist.

      • Olaugh Turchev says:

        Yeah Christy, just like those http://rt.com/news/166496-journalist-dies-ukraine-shooting/
        Last time I checked NATO’s multi billion dollar intelligence agencies had to rely on poor photographs of some bearded guy offered by the USB that the photographer acknowledged a few days later to have all been taken in Ukraine and not in Georgia, invalidating the whole plot. As for the 3 tanks that allegedly crossed the border, these were T64 B that came from a Ukrainian army depot of Artemovsk 50km north of Donetsk taken by the resistance to Kiev, not from any Russian regiment that are using the T 72.
        As for your anti Lisitsa post, the UK and the US will have to worry about the mess they created in Irak sooner than they thought: given your high moral standards, I surely hope you did boycott most US and UK artists for the past 11 years… otherwise, don’t throw stones in a glass house.

  • Hugh says:

    She played this piece at the Tchaikovsky competition 2011. It was a unique choice because she played it to fulfill competition’s regulation to play one or more Russian repertoire at the second stage. Other pieces she played in this stage were only Schumann. Liszt and Shchedrin, the commissioned work. No wonder she considers Kapustin, Russian.

  • Christy says:

    Speaking of pianists, Lisitsa is quite the rabid Russian politically. I’ve had to stop following her twitter. Also, very anti-American. A shame, since I had enjoyed her work.

    • Vince says:

      Glad to know there are others who have unfollowed for her political views. I generally respect people’s opinions that aren’t my own, but she has quite the venomous choice of words for people who are against Russia’s policies. She also tries to claim she is a neutral party, which is ridiculous of course. I wonder if any press that covers classical music will ever report her views?

      • Olaugh Turchev says:

        Lisitsa is Ukrainian so she does have a legitimate say and an educated one to boot in what is happening in her country of birth. Your comment about hoping for some classical music press coverage of her views reads as if you’d wish for a good ol’ media lynching, for her to pay a price for her views. But since you “generally” respect people’s opinion that aren’t your own… You’d better clarify what you meant.