‘Be glad for Gergiev that he can earn 340 million’

Reactions in Russia to the latest glasnost on cultural earnings has been a curious mixture of envy and pride.

According to Valery Gergiev’s tax declaration, he owns three plots of land, six apartments, one cottage and two cars, in addition to a tax-year income of 340m rubles, just under seven million US dollars.

Some politicians grumbled that it was unfair for a music director to rake in so much when wages across the cultural sector fell last year by 40 percent.

But a director of the Institute for Social Policy, one Sergei Smirnov, took an aspirational view: ‘For God’s sake, if the maestro can earn 340 million, one should only be glad for him. I don’t understand why this (fuss) is necessary.’

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  • He deserves every cent!!!Apart from being a brillant musician,he really,really works his ass off.Wish we had more music directors who care as much about their houses as he does!1

    • I’m sure that there are plenty of musicians in Russia who work just as hard as Gergiev. That’s not to say that he doesn’t work hard, but no doubt the orchestral musicians and the singers in the chorus also work very hard, but for much less money.

  • I can’t be the only person who thinks it’s obscene that Gergiev earns about 850 times as much as the average Russian. What’s the ratio between Gergiev’s salary and those of his orchestral musicians and chorus members? 100:1? 200:1? 500:1? It was only a couple of years ago that Norman Lebrecht broke the news that 300 musicians in three state-funded orchestras hadn’t been paid anything for four months.

  • Mr Gergiev’s working capacity is impressive. According to this blogg he was scheduled to conduct 49 concerts in 29 days in this year’s Moscow Easter Festival, he is going to conduct at least 12 concerts in Munich in the coming season, etc. His artistic commitment is also indisputable.

  • he made 67,000 per performance in 2012 when you divide the number of performances by his annual income

  • I think the criticism of the salary he draws from his duties with the Mariinsky needs to be seen in the context of his combined yearly remunerations, which are >$15 mio.

  • Come on people ! Nothing new here ! Conductors earn an obscene amount of money.
    Gergiev is just one of many. Yes many are really very good and indeed inspiring. Does this justify the staggering difference between their fee and orchestral players’ fees ? Of course not. I seem to remember Norman wrote extensively and totally astutely about this subject in The Maestro Myth and When The Music Stops.

    • Sadly the same in a lot of fields. At a university, for example, there may be very good teaching assistants or sessional lecturers, either very advanced PhD students or early-career scholars, who are paid £10-£20/hour to do an excellent job (in my experience not infrequently a better job than the actual lecturers), then junior research fellows/post-doctoral fellows who may be on £15,000-£20,000 p.a., lecturers averaging around £40,000 p.a., and professors on £50,000 p.a. (a chair at my own institution, considered one of the top four in the world, recently came up on a salary of £50,000, and every candidate who was shortlisted already held a chair at another highly ranked UK university). Then you have the vice-chancellors, provosts, principals, directors, and so on, who average £260,000 p.a., with the UK’s highest earning vice-chancellor on £623,000. I refuse to believe that a vice-chancellor’s skills and workload is worth, say, 30 times what a teaching assistant is paid, or that the average vice-chancellor is worth five times what one of his professors may be earning (especially given that that professor is probably a much more distinguished scholar than the vice-chancellor).

      I honestly can’t see what would be wrong with a 10:1 ratio between the income of the highest paid and lowest paid in an organisation. So let’s say the rank and file second violinist who has just graduated from a conservatoire earns £50,000 p.a., and the conductor earns £500,000 p.a. on a pro rata basis according to the proportion of time actually spent working for that orchestra. £50,000 p.a. is enough to have a good quality of life in London, and seems like a fair starting point for somebody with very specific abilities and training. On the other hand, I fail to see how anybody could possibly need more than half a million pounds per year to live on (that’s over £800 per day after tax).

  • I recall Joan rivers defending superstar paydays basically with… get it while you’re hot because it could all end tomorrow and you won’t be hot all your life.

    How does this $7 million compare with other A-list classical musicians around the world?

  • When people read your chosen headline, they will of course not be thinking in roubles. As the man said, this Gergiev bashing is getting boring.

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