Gidon Kremer: I fail to understand some of my unnamed colleagues

Gidon Kremer: I fail to understand some of my unnamed colleagues


norman lebrecht

September 13, 2014

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


“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.



  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    Gidon Kremer should know better that one-way rants never reflect the reality and its complexity. In fact, one could take his words and replace “my Russia” with my UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Netherland, France etc… for all of us who know what’s being done to our countries and our people.
    Kremer should be well inspired to read Stephen F. Cohen

    • Lenotchka says:

      A picture is worth a thousand words – Latvian government installs SS-themed slide on the playground in the heart of Riga
      About that and about multiple documented abuses against minorities – ethnic (not only Russian but Belorussian and Polish to ask a few), sexual minorities – the cause so dear to the press BUT NOT WHEN IT HAPPENS IN A “GOOD” COUNTRY – about those things that happen in Maestro Kremer’s own backyard he is strangely mum. He is mum about impoverished Latvia, a prosperous country long ago, now ranked below Romania and Bulgaria.He is mum about starving old people – almost half of them fallen under Latvian meager poverty line….Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? These words have no meaning for globe-trotting elite. They only act and say things according to what is politically expedient at the moment. No standing ovation from me, Maestro Kremer.
      Ps. Latvian minister of environment sacked for taking a nice weekend stroll, poor thing. In Nazi uniform.

      • Greg Hlatky says:

        The per capita GAP of Latvia (measured by PPP) is $20,204 while that of Russia is $18,408. But we all realize the dangerous threat that Latvia poses to Russia and how justified the latter would be to “protect” Latvia’s oppressed Russian minorities by taking it over. Again.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Neil says:

          Utter nonsense what you write about the playground in Riga

          Yes, it didn’t look it even was in a playground to me. But what is it? Some kind of “work of art”? Can you explain? Most people here probably don’t know Latvian (Yours Truly included), and the Google translation doesn’t make much sense:

          “True, as one might expect – it certainly does not slide. Sliding case that any child splinters guarantee full ass.”

          I guess that means sliding down it guarantees an ass full of splinters?

  • sdReader says:

    Shut up and play.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      sdReader says:

      Shut up and play.

      How about you shut up and…well, you can’t play, obviously, so…I guess – just shut up.

  • Neil McGowan says:

    Kremer has chosen his words carefully and wisely here.

    Killers and liars must be exposed and condemned

    I do hope we are not going to find dissent on SD with this very obvious, yet widely ignored statement?

    More than 3000 people – most of them innocent civilians – have been killed by ruthless armed forces in Ukraine. Before anyone here starts pointing fingers, let’s try to take inspiration from Kremer’s message – that no kind of politics is a justification for genocidal murder.

  • M2N2K says:

    When it comes to issues concerning Russia and its immediate neighbors, Gidon Kremer knows the situation very well. He is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met and he would never make public statements if he is not absolutely sure about an issue in question. Well said, Gidon, as always!

  • David Pickett says:

    Bravo, Kremer and the values that you are standing up for!

  • BRCH says:


  • Martin says:

    Complaining about stars and not real music in Verbier, but using every little incident to draw attention to himself. I’d sue to get my ticket mony back after that program change he announced. I pay a musician to play music, not to hear them talk politics.

    We have bigger problems in this world than the power struggle in that region. His attention to this is simple sensationalism. An artist probably beyond his time and unworthy of further attention. Won’t bother to consider his concerts in my travel plans any longer.

    • Cat says:

      Are you trolling, man? Only the world’s worst problems are worth talking about publicly? Musicians are not allowed to have political opinions?
      Also: Verbier IS a 3-ring circus, with varying quality of performances. We could discuss names of specific “stars,” but there are worse problems in other regions of the world.

  • Maxim says:

    Dear Gidon! Thank you a lot for your great music and your human (even humanistic) position! I’m very sorry for bastards from my beloved country – Russia who are trying to insult you. You are absolutely right in your words and deeds. Trust me, your ideas are shared millions of Russians in Russia and abroad. Thank you for all!

    • Olaugh Turchev says:

      So far the insult “bastards” came from your comment. Next time try to build an argument.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        I think what Maxim is trying to say here is that some people in Russia are bastards, and they are the ones behind all this nastiness but not all of them are bastards, the majority isn’t.
        I can believe that! It’s like that everywhere, not just in Russia.

  • M2N2K says:

    All these complaints about “other problems in the world” are irrelevant as far as Gidon’s words are concerned, because he states very clearly that he has a special connection to culture and people of Russia and that this is why he is troubled most by what is happening in that country. Nowhere does he claim to be a representative of all humanity because no one is.

  • Tata says:

    God bless you, Gidoshenka!
    Thank you!