The great violinist has issued the following non-political statement via Slipped Disc on the darkening Russia-Ukraine situation. Gidon asks: what can music do when politicians are pushing us to war? There is no easy answer. Read Gidon’s words, share, and reflect.
“Gidon Kremer: My Russia”
I have decided to replace our planned “All About Gidon” show at the Semperoper (scheduled to coincide within my personal residency this season as a “Capell-Virtuoso”of the Dresden Staatskapelle) for a number of reasons.
First, I cannot remain indifferent towards the dramatic events currently taking placebetween Russia and Ukraine, which is strongly reminiscent of the situation in Europe before World War II.
Second, I have absolutely no intention of becoming politician, but I do feel that I have a duty, as an artist and a musician, to express my emotions and my particular stance through music.
While greatly concerned about the degree of inertia with which most of the people with power are responding to the tragic events, I have to admit that I feel equally helpless. However, as I follow the developments on a daily basis, I become more and more aware that there are some dark forces at play.
I cannot tell which of them are worse. The imperial ambitions of politicians or the fact that the most of the people in a nation (as is the case in today’s Russia) are being brainwashed and manipulated by the state’s mass media?
Aren’t the naive aspirations of Ukrainians also being used by those for whom political and financial manoeuvring seems to be more important than the truth?
Aren’t the pragmatic and defensive mechanisms of people in the West simply relying on tough words and hypothetical actions while “playing chess with a tiger”? In trying to find a compromise, they seem to be mainly selfishly motivated and focused on their own economic interests.
Let me – let us – “speak” Music. That is the only language I truly understand a little.
When choosing the new programme for our concert, I chose to play works dedicated to Kremerata Baltica and me by close friends of mine – the important contemporary Russian composers Sofia Gubaidulina, Leonid Desyatnikov and Alexander Raskatov.
Another item on the programme will be a chamber symphony by a composer whose work is still undervalued worldwide (and strangely enough in Russia, too!) – Mieczyslaw Weinberg, who like his “predecessors” (such as Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Shostakovich and Prokofiev, who became classics) has left the world a priceless musical heritage that has yet to be discovered. As someone whose sounds always draw deeply on the emotions, Weinberg is another “wake-up call” for all of us who are searching for eternal human values.
All this music belongs to what I can call “my” Russia – whose cultural traditions in the fields of literature, visual arts, the theatre and the cinema have always been important and very dear to me (starting in the years during which I studied with the great David Oistrakh at the Moscow conservatory).
It is absolutely clear to me that not a single performance could be appreciated, enjoyed or valued, if the artists concerned allowed themselves to play wrong notes or to play out of tune. Our professional duty is to strive through sounds for a better world, to expand the imagination of our audiences, to remain idealistic and unpretentious. I know – the world of arts is also full of “stars” who are mainly motivated by self-exposure and success. But let’s try to stick to a different set of values, to those who consider themselves at the service of the scores.
By contrast, these days we are witnessing the loud language and strident sounds of politics. I must admit, it turns me off. It seems that only manipulation, material and political interests, lies and power games are the “orchestration” with which one party answers the other. The sad thing is that some highly valued artists take part in this game.
I fail to understand some of my colleagues, who (for their own convenience?) support the state of affairs and its political intimidation. They (no names here!) call it “patriotism”. Individually, they have the right to make their own choices. But as artists, shouldn’t their duty be-to stand up for truth , while sharing positive energies?
For me, true loyalty to one’s country or to one’s audience is to serve spiritual values and not to become convenient “puppets” for those politicians who are making loud but fundamentally flawed statements and expressing apparently powerful doctrines, but who actually seem indifferent to human suffering and tragedies. At the same time, cherishing the cultural traditions of the Russian past as I do, I am eager to remind our audiences of different values associated with “Russia”.
We should not ignore the fact that wherever terror and killings are the language of so-called “politics”, human values are at stake. By contrast, music and arts have the possibility to spread kindness and understanding. And in the light of the present situation, I feel that it becoming increasingly imperative to focus on values of that kind.
I know that our small event is not going to change the world order and at best will have just a tiny influence on the struggle between fighting and negotiating parties. Yet at the same time I feel compelled to express my concerns and my anxiety for those in need, irrespective of whether they are in Ukraine or in Russia.
Killers and liars must be exposed and condemned. There is not a slightest chance of ever achieving a better world if we simply distance ourselves from terror. Willingly or unwillingly, all of us “participate” in the process by ignoring those who suffer. Each of us has a responsibility. And each of us has a choice – to remain indifferent and silent or find a way to speak out.
As musicians we should be “peacemakers”. Our tool is Music. Let it sound on its own terms. I am proud of Kremerata Baltica, the group of talented musicians from our independent homelands with whom I have now spent many years sharing common values. I am sure that there are people who will be able to pick up our message on their “radar” and be encouraged.
Gidon Kremer / September 12, 2014.