Just in: Gergiev is dropped in Germany ‘because he’s Putin’s friend’

Just in: Gergiev is dropped in Germany ‘because he’s Putin’s friend’


norman lebrecht

November 10, 2014

In a mark of the worsening Cold War, Valery Gergiev has been told he is not welcome at next year’s Saar music festival, which has Poland as its theme. ‘We were given a clear indication by the Polish Embassy in Berlin that Gergiev is not wanted,” said its artistic director Robert Leonardy. It is not acceptable that a Russian, a well-known friend of Putin’s, should appear at a Polish event.’

Gergiev was due to perform in Saarbrücken on March 10, on tour with the Munich Philharmonic and cellist Sol Gabetta. They will give the same concert in Paris the night before, but the Munich Phil has been told to change conductor for the Saar Festival. Gergiev will be replaced by th Polish conductor, Michal Nesterowicz.

The cancellation is a mark of Gergiev’s increasing isolation. 

Russian President Putin presents a Hero of Labour award to Mariinsky theatre director Gergiev during an awards ceremony in St. Petersburg


  • Abendroth says:

    You can’t make a career on dubious political frienships and be surprised at the backlash.

    • Anonymus says:

      Gergiev had a career long before Putin rose to the top in Russia. They know and like each other for a long time. Is that a reason to make him persona non grata? I hoped this nationalistic hatred would be a thing of the past. Shame on all the haters. Shame on the Polish Embassy, shame on that festival intendant.

      • Herrera says:

        “Gergiev had a career long before Putin rose to the top in Russia”

        Ah my comrade, it’s *staying* at the top that is the trick in Putin’s Russia. How many of the oligarchs who rose to the top with Putin only to see themselves fall in disgrace, be jailed, exiled, poisoned by uranium?

        The moment Gergiev stops publicly supporting Putin is when you’ll see Gergiev conducting the Siberian Junior High School Student Wind Band.

        • Anonymus says:

          This Nazi-like ideological crusade against Gergiev is just shameful. Even if he shows sympathy for Putin, that’s no reason to boycott him in a society that’s based on freedom and free speech, no? Be suspicious toward anyone, who tells you you should hate a certain person or member of a certain group of the bigger humanity…

          • caaps02 says:

            Freedom also means freedom to choose who you associate with. Not associating with people who support tyrants who invade, occupy and annex parts of neighbouring countries seems like a very reasonably option to me.

  • Anonymus says:

    Outrageous and very sad. This is not a “Polish event”. It’s a music festival in Germany, subsidized mainly by the tax payer. The festival should show the Polish Embassy the door, for trying to inject their nationalistic hatred into this music festival.

    And Sol Gabetta HAS to cancel her appearance there as well, if she has an ounce of integrity left. Nationalists caught in their 19th century “thinking” like this Polish embassy official, should not be supported.

    • sdReader says:

      Gergiev conducted in Poland just last December.

      • Robert Holmén says:

        Last December, Russia wasn’t invading Ukraine or threatening the airspace of its European neighbors.

        • sdReader says:

          True, and maybe things have changed. But Gergiev was in Warsaw to conduct his friend Mariusz Treliński’s stagings of two short operas.

          He will conduct these same stagings at the Met in New York in January. One would think that if ties are so strained this would not be happening, that Treliński would break off the friendship and tell Peter Gelb to drop Gergiev.

    • caaps02 says:

      The person who is urging a return to the 19th century, and indeed is behaving like a 19th century emperor is Putin.

  • Marina Arshinova says:

    when famous conductor with high honorarium is replaced by unknown conductor – it’s always because of money (if only not because of illness of the star)

    and of explanation, yes, I agree with previous statement

  • Martin Kisling says:

    ho ho ho! Nazi- like crusade?! Weigh your words Mr Anonymus. Involving his own name in supporting letters for Putin’s Crimea policy he puts himself into deserved critic.
    I never heard Pletnev for instance sharing his political views in public, because he knows musicians should keep themselves far from the political comments.

    • Anonymus says:

      Of course Pletnev keeps his head down. I just say “Thailand”, I hope I needn’t say more…
      Musicians should keep themselves far from political comments? That’s a very antiquated concept, dates back to feudalistic times, when the musicians were servants…
      No musicians are citizens and must speak up, it’s actually a responsibility. That they often don’t is simply not to bite the hand that feeds them…

      But look around you and see what a climate that is the opposite of freedom is prevalent these days. It’s getting “1984” like.

      • Nick says:

        Oh yes? Thailand? And a case that was a clear slander on a great artist? For one, it was known the Russian mafia had a controlling interest in that part of the country. For another, an internet cafe owner involved in nefarious dealings offered up a famous ‘name’ in return for leniency by the courts. With MP returning for each bail hearing every fortnight or so, there was finally no case to answer. It was a set up from the very start. To perpetuate a vile slander is a disgrace.

        • Anonymus says:

          You are right. MP has nothing to do with this, and he was never convicted on the charges brought against him, we should leave him out of that. But because he is quiet doesn’t mean VG has to hide his political opinions as well or else be punished. This type of mental policing of all aspects of political life by a certain interest group in our western societies is very worrying.

          • Nick says:

            Thank you. Not only was MP never convicted, it is fact that no case was ever brought against him. As with the notorious perp walks in the US justice system, Thailand happily publishes names and photos of those merely being questioned with regard to a case. According to friends and musicians who live there, much of the Thai system is thoroughly corrupt.

            But I do agree with your other views in this thread.

  • Peter says:

    Where is the Munich Philharmonic’s backing for their man? “we come with Gergiev or not at all” seems to be missing…

    • sdReader says:

      Good question!

      I think one thing VG and the MPhil heads have in common is a flexibility on matters of principal. Otherwise none of this would be happening and the VG 5-year contract would have been torn up months ago!

    • Johann Erinn says:

      UPDATE. The answer to the question is a news release from the orchestra, denying the whole story:


      Klarstellung zum Beitrag in der Bild-Zeitung von Horst Cronauer vom 9.11.2014:

      Nach dem Tod von Lorin Maazel war es der naheliegende Gedanke, bei den Besetzungen der Konzerte zuerst an Valery Gergiev als seinen Nachfolger als Chefdirigent der Münchner Philharmoniker zu denken. Aufgrund anderweitiger Verpflichtungen Valery Gergievs am 10. März 2015 am Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg wurde ersichtlich, dass er nicht bei den Musikfestspielen Saar dirigieren können würde. Valery Gergiev war folglich zu keinem Zeitpunkt als Dirigent des Konzertes mit den Münchner Philharmonikern in Saarbrücken vorgesehen.

      Die Münchner Philharmoniker
      Das Orchester der Stadt

      • Chris says:

        Something is not adding up. This sounds like an excuse, a face saving measure by the orchestra. Or trying to avoid to address the issue. Or why is the Intendant of the Saar Festival on record multiple times, print media, radio, with different statements about the reasons as stated in the opening article of this thread?
        Is the intendant of the Saar Festival nuts? Or does he speak the inconvenient truth?
        Very strange indeed…

        • sdReader says:

          I would believe the MPhil press man over the Saar organizer, who may want publicity.

          • Chris says:

            Publicity by revealing the Polish ambassador’s sneaky request when he just could have said that Gergiev is not available that day? Sorry, no, Mr. Leonardy can’t be that stupid, can he?
            But I would see reason for the MPhil to suppress the issue and give false testimony so everybody can save his face…

  • harold braun says:

    I knew Mr.Leonardy as a mediocre pianist.But now it´s clear he is a world class hypocrite!

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    The Poles only embarrass themselves with this.

    • CJPok says:

      As a Pole, I don’t feel at all embarrassed. Mixing politics with arts has a long history. Go back to cold war times and see how many west artists were banned from entering Warsaw Pact countries. You sign a controversial support statement, expect controversial decisions. C’est la vie.

  • Chris says:

    Kudos to Norman Lebrecht for giving this the air of international attention. That means this story will probably backfire big time on these Polish haters. I can’t imagine the Munich Phil and German officials could accept such a bribery by official representatives of Poland.

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    Next, banning of Russian classical music?… But hey, all this in the name of democracy and freedom… 1930s here we are… and in 21st century EU, they love it!

  • John Humphreys says:

    Of course Gergiev should be boycotted – he has publically declared his support for Putin and his territorial ambitions. How would we feel about a Russian conductor who came to the UK in 1956 fully supportive of the USSR’s invasion of Hungary? Welcome him with open arms providing the cosy excuse that he is a musician and these beasts are immune from such inconveniences? There is a moral dimension here – musicians, artists and writers at their best should, through their work propose something fine and noble for this world. History is littered with countless examples of those who don’t for sure but this is no reason for them to be immune to public censure. There are other more pertinent reasons for banning Gergiev anyway – he is (by general reckoning) a lousy conductor but a great mover and shaker. How can anyone bring anything fresh to interpretation with his life style?

    • Olaugh Turchev says:

      OK John, let’s do it right then. How about boycotting any US orchestra or soloist like Yoyo Ma and Perlman who played for or supported Obama, you know Obama the warmonger who received some Nobel Peace Prize? Wanna list the “peace” achievements of the US? Britain? in the 21st century? Bet you wouldn’t like that! So ya don’t like Gergiev, fine, I am not a full convert meself, so don’t go, don’t buy his work and stop your little armchair totalitarian would ya?

      • Gonout Backson says:

        Please, Mr Tuchev, be so kind and show us a letter of support for Obama’s invasion of just-about-anything, signed by Yo-Yo Ma and Perlman.

        • Olaugh Turchev says:

          Wants to see the inauguration video? Haven’t heard any disclaimer since…

          • Gonout Backson says:

            I have asked you for a letter of support from Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, concerning a specific, military action by Mr Obama, like the one Mr Gergiev signed (after telling some interesting lies about Ukraine) in support of the Russian invasion of Crimea.

          • Olaugh Turchev says:

            Excuses, excuses… they played, they never recanted their implicit support. period.

      • Dave T says:

        As I recall Ma and Perlman played at Obama’s FIRST inauguration. Technically, at the exact minutes they played he wasn’t even president, just president-elect. Thus, they couldn’t possibly have been supporting, implicit or otherwise, any policy of Obama’s which you find so objectionable.

        Besides, the inauguration of a president in the US is about far more than then specific person taking office. It is a symbol of the two-century old central tradition of American democracy and the peaceful transfer of power. I hope that you are not going to denounce every high school band, dance troupe, and ladies group which marched in the inauguration parade, too, are you?

  • SVM says:

    Gergiev has every right to support Putin’s politics (which have done more for world peace than Obama’s), and to dissent from the brainwashed nonsense that much of the Western media promulgate unquestioningly. Leonardy’s decision is philistine and deplorable. Whilst I would not argue for Leonardy’s dismissal, it is questionable whether the German taxpayer should be funding a festival that operates on such a politically whimsical basis, and may be breaking EU anti-discrimination legislation. If the Polish embassy wants to dictate terms, they should either fund the festival outright or start their own version instead.

    I sincerely hope that the Munich Philharmonic stands in solidarity with its soon-to-be principal conductor, and refuses to perform on at the festival in question with someone other than Gergiev. I also trust that Gergiev will be paid his fee in full, failing which he should sue.

    • J. says:

      “Putin’s politics (which have done more for world peace than Obama’s”

      I wonder what’s you opinion about Mao, Castro, Chávez, Pol Pot etc…

      • Anonymus says:

        Factually SVM is right though, even if facts never bother a bunch of brainwashed people.

        Everybody who has a problem with Putin should imagine a similar scenario with reversed roles, the Russians pouring billions into a country that hosts strategical US Navy bases, to kick the US military out of that country. What do you think, try to sidestep your brainwashing for a moment, what do you think the US would do? So why all the hypocrisy?

    • caaps02 says:

      Whatever support of Putin by various prominent Russian figures in Russia might be called (and I can think of a few things to call it), it CANNOT be called “dissent”.

      • Gonout Backson says:

        Oh, you know, if a democratic election where the extreme right gets almost nothing can be called “fascism”, if a military convoy of powder and steel can be called “humanitarian”, and a bunch of thugs supported by a proto-fascist regime and the European extreme right in its totality can be called “a fight against nazism”, then, I suppose, you can call a handful (not a very “powerful” one) of idiots licking the feet of their Vozhd – “dissent”. It’s a long tradition Mr Putin is perpetuating here.

  • Gonout Backson says:

    You wonder?

    BTW, Oliver Stone, visiting Russia to offer Putin another hagiography of his kind, after the two he did about Castro, has just declared on Russian TV (in the Vesti show) that in 1941 Hitler invaded the Soviet Union hand in hand with Hungary, Romania and… Poland.

    Next stop – Phenian?

  • Anonymus says:

    The Intendant of the festival has already spilled the beans, what the real reason for this is: Polish national Chauvinism. So this press release by the orchestra sounds like an attempt at damage control, that might backfire on the orchestra, since it apparently is a lie, a “Notlüge”.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      Apparently Mr Anonymous doesn’t know, or – more probably – pretends not to. Polish “national chauvinists” (check your OED…) enthusiastically, sometimes actively support Putin’s policies. Just as all the extreme right wing parties in Europe do. Antifascists, indeed.

  • Christy says:

    Putin’s intelligence services need to hire lackeys who write better English.

  • Richard Dubugnon says:

    for God’s sake, revise your history books guys, when did Russia invade Ukraine exactly ? And what does all this have to do with music ? Gergiev is a great musician, I know it for having performed with him many times. Some artists are above politics.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      Interesting logic: if Gergiev wants to remain “above” politics, why did he stoop to signing a very political declaration of support for Putin’s policies (after having told some lies about Ukraine) ? He crossed the line himself. You cannot have it both ways.

      • Neil McGowan says:

        What line is that??at??

        What lies???

        • Gonout Backson says:

          Gergiev’s lies have been discussed here before. He pretended in an interview (Argumenty i Fakty, 5 March 2014) that Russian culture was persecuted in Ukraine, his single “proof” being that not a single Russian opera was being played at the Kiev Opera. It wasn’t hard to find five different titles currently in repertoire (Aleko, Boris, Onegin, Saltan, Iolantha).

          Russian propaganda has told worse lies, but this one at least is signed.

          As for the “line”, I’m surprised by your question, since was quite simple : the line between “apolitical” and “politics”. It’s all pretty clear in my exchange with Mr Dubugnon.

  • Neil McGowan says:

    Michal who???


  • Chris says:

    I think it is a good idea to actually read the open letter from Russia’s ministry of culture supporting Russia’s policies regarding Crimea and Ukraine. That letter that Gergiev among other Russian artists signed and which seems to cause the most criticism in the rest of the world. Read, think and decide for yourself.

    “Russian cultural figures – in support of the position of the President of Russia on Ukraine and Crimea

    In the days when the fate of our compatriots and the Crimea (is solved/decided), Russian cultural figures can not be indifferent observers with a cold heart.

    Our shared history and common roots, our culture and its spiritual origins, our fundamental values and language united us forever.

    We want the community of our people and our culture to have a strong future.

    That is why we firmly reiterate support for the position of President of the Russian Federation on Ukraine and Crimea.”

    • Gonout Backson says:

      “Our shared history and common roots, our culture and its spiritual origins, our fundamental values and language united us forever.”

      Thank you for this very enlightening quote. I think the meaning of this phrase is quite clear: Ukraine has no right to seek an independent future. The annexion of Crimea was just a beginning.

      • Chris says:

        Oh snap, just inform yourself what actual experienced statesmen like Henry Kissinger have to say about the issue. He is a controversial figure but he appears like a political wise man compared to the amateurs we have to endure in Washington and London now for over a decade. Please spare us the Fox news drivel.

        • Gonout Backson says:

          It’s funny Mr Kissinger turned “experienced statesman” after decades of “imperialist warmonger”.

          But, should you wonder, I don’t need Mr Kissinger to think for me. I do it myself. You should try. No more “argumentum ab auctoritate” please. Try some real arguments.

  • Gonout Backson says:


    Could you tell us what your interesting statements have to do with the matter? Gergiev’s lies and support of Putin? Soviet Russia’s financing of communist parties in the West? Mr Turchev’s failed attempt to peddle another, and rather old, “dezinformatsia” masterpiece?

    Or are you just trying to turn the tables?

  • Gonout Backson says:

    A very interesting contribution, Mr McGowan, one only a completely biased reader could interpret as “racist”. You should have added a Polish joke for more fun.

    I suppose this is for you the “authentic British culture”:


    Now the facts: as I read in the press, 200 thugs and hooligans among those who organize this kind of riot every year on this particular day, have been arrested.

    But what is much more interesting, and something Mr McGowan should know, since it has been said many times here, is that the thugs you see on the video and their marginal, extreme-right organizations offer a very vocal support to Putin and Russia against the Ukrainian people. They even send “voluntaries” to Donetsk.

    In fact, let’s repeat it again : the whole European and American extreme right supports Moscow in this crisis.

    • Mark Henriksen says:

      Well, “son”, if you had actually “gone out back” instead of sitting at your computer all day, this comment section might have remained focused on the issue at hand.

  • Gonout Backson says:

    And what would that be – “the issue at hand”?