Latest: Now Toronto Symphony censors itself

Latest: Now Toronto Symphony censors itself


norman lebrecht

April 08, 2015

Having fired Valentina Lisitsa for her pro-Kremlin politics, the Toronto Symphony boss Jeff Melanson quickly reeled in a Canadian pianist, Stewart Goodyear, to take her place at the piano.

But, after extraordinary scenes of confusion and indecision, he then decided to drop the concerto altogether from its programme, announcing:

Dear Patrons:

In light of this week’s events, the TSO has taken a decision to remove Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 from this week’s programme. The concert for Wednesday, April 8 and Thursday, April 9 will focus entirely on Mahler’s monumental Fifth Symphony. The concert begins at 8pm and will have no intermission.

This absurd instance of maladministration left poor Goodyear distressed and bewildered. MusicalToronto has his response here.

What a mess.



  • MacroV says:

    Stewart Goodyear’s comments may be the best I’ve yet read on this matter.

    I would say the TSO should have the decency to reschedule him for a time when he doesn’t have to be part of this circus.

    • Hank says:

      Agreed, MACROV! In addition, to being a heck of a pianist and musician, Stewart Goodyear is absolutely right about his comments regarding the TSO’s actions and those of Lisitsa.

  • Robin Elliott says:

    Stewart Goodyear is a fabulous pianist and just recorded the Rachmaninov concerto he was to have performed. What amazing talent Toronto has. Last week Jonathan Crow stepped in with two days’ notice to play the Korngold concerto when the originally scheduled violin soloist had to cancel. The moral of the story for the TSO? Hire local soloists!

  • Mikey says:

    “Distressed and bewildered”? The TSO reacted in the only way open to it considering the vitriol coming from ms. Lisitsa and her fan base.

    I’m surprised that N.L. didn’t comment more on Stewart Goodyear’s excellent response to the situation. Maybe a mere Canadian pianist is not worthy of attention? It would almost seem, from reading both N.L’s articles and the comments to those articles, as though on this blog anything coming from Canada is unworthy of respect, whether it be performers, administrations, or even the music itself.

    I’m looking forward to some fair and balanced reporting of various scandals involving either UK groups or Israeli ones.

  • burton says:

    Be assured some of us have much sympathy for TSO and others who inadvertently were dragged into the latest kerfuffle. VL is a terrific performer who openly plays with (political) fire. This time she got singed and I trust it won’t be the last. Some devotees and others who happen to share her beliefs are incensed her appearance was cancelled. By all means, they are free to promote an alternative venue or city and proceed apace. Just don’t expect the TSO to sacrifice itself on the alter of fully airing the latest political controversy. It is a performing arts organization not a journalistic enterprise; an orchestra not a news broadcast. No one has been banned and no one has been censored. As noted this caper may well provide the biggest boost to VL’s public image to date. No need for TSO to lead the mob a la Charlie Chaplin.

    • Marilynn in NorCal says:

      Would someone please explain to me what business the Toronto Symphony Orchestra has in vetting Ms Lisitsa’s political views? Did she declare her position on stage? Did she in any way drag the TSO into the fray during a performance or pretend to be a spokesperson for the organization? I honestly don’t know, as I have never seen a performance of the TSO or the pianist in question. However, as far as I can tell, it was the TSO that placed itself squarely in the cross hairs of political controversy by making a stink over the lady’s right to free speech because her opinions didn’t square with a certain segment of Canadian society (who incidentally were every bit as nasty and threatening in their public commentary as any other faction in this affair).

      If the orchestra’s leader and indeed its members don’t like what Valentina Lisitsa has to say, then simply don’t read her tweets! Just keep swallowing what the MSM spoon feeds the lot of you and you’ll all be happy campers until someone gets upset at something YOU said. Personally, I am disappointed that the whole orchestra didn’t stage a walkout in support of an artist’s right to her or his personal views on any subject matter as long as it doesn’t interfere with the MUSIC. That IS what an orchestra is all about, isn’t it?

      • burton says:

        You’ve misconstrued the entire argument. Forgive me if I have been unclear.

        1. The TSO is not ‘vetting [VL’s] political views’. It is seeking (successfully or otherwise) to quell an expanding controversy that threatens to affect the health and future of the organization.

        2. Responsibility for the controversial tweets lies solely with VL.

        3. The TSO at no time questioned anyone’s ‘right to free speech’.

        Most of the remaining points in your post are irrelevant – no diatribes from the stage, no claim as spokesman for the orchestra, etc. Again, TSO is passing no judgment on whether her opinions ‘squared with…society’ or whether it ‘liked’ her opinions. The fact is her public pronouncements sparked a firestorm that threatened to harm the organization and thus could not be ignored. Your beliefs that VL’s detractors are equally nasty and threatening and that those like myself swallow what the MSM spoon feeds us – even if true – don’t alter the essential point here: TSO is not the government and its management is charged with protecting the organization. Reconciling that central responsibility with tolerance for speech many find offensive is a thoroughly unenviable task. Few organizations are willing to divorce themselves entirely from the public on which they depend.

        • Marilynn in NorCal says:

          Um, okayyy. I’ve “misconstrued the entire argument” and “most of [my] points are irrelevant.”

          Hey, thanks for dismissing my query and opinion. Got better things to do with my time than explain things all over again.

          The sandbox is all yours, friend. Ciao.

  • Sergei says:

    Bah!, all this mess for Rachmaninoff 2! A work recorded at least 200 times, and played live a similar number. Every music fan has it recorded, and surely more than once. I wouldn’t go to listen to it except played by Rachmaninoff, and that is slightly difficult now.