Valery Gergiev: Putin has declared 2016 to be Prokofiev Year

Valery Gergiev: Putin has declared 2016 to be Prokofiev Year


norman lebrecht

December 10, 2015

The Russian president’s musical spokesman has told Ria Novosti that Vladimir Putin has come up with the idea of making next year the year of Prokofiev. It will be the 125th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

Russian musicians are being urged to adapt their programmes accordingly.

Gergiev has ‘warmly and sincerely’ thanked the president for his brilliant suggestion.

putin gergiev


  • Marina Arshinova says:

    The suggestion is really brilliant according to my taste. Prokofiev is one of the best composers of XX century and one of my favorite composers. It’s gonna be great if we will hear more of his music in the upcoming year. Valery Gergiev twice dedicated his festivals to Sergey Prokofiev, in 2003 and 2012 where all the symphonies and piano concertos were performed. Almost all the operas of Prokofiev were performed by Gergiev, many of them are recorded on the label Mariinsky and also were showed worldwide.

    Is something wrong?

    • Eddie Mars says:

      No, nothing is wrong.

    • Luk says:

      What I don’t like is the idea that “Russian musicians are being urged to adapt their programmes accordingly” (even more so at such short notice).
      Declaring one specific year the ‘year of ‘ is fine and even welcome, especially if he’s a relatively unknown or underplayed composer, but after that, the only thing a state should do is helping the awareness of the public towards that composer by organizing exhibitions, or specific events, or even sponsoring concerts. Beyond that, musicians should be free to embrace the suggestion or not.

      • CDH says:

        Then I take it your main problem is with that word “urged.” Perhaps you, as I, would prefer “encouraged” or something suggesting more of a notion of opting in.

        I do not read Russian so could not manage the original link. But I am reminded of the conversation in The Russia House between Barley and Katia in which he wonders if she does not mean “proper” when she says “convenient.” She denies this emphatically, as she know that the Russian word she is using translates as “convenient.” She is apparently unaware that the same word also translates as “proper.”


        • Eddie Mars says:

          The Russian text in the link provided does not include the word ‘urged’, or ‘encouraged’, or any similar phrase.

          Anniversary-mania is just as advanced here in Russia as in W Europe. Orchestras and opera-houses will have made their repertoire plans for Prokofiev’s anniversary well in advance.

          It’s always welcome when the government takes a direct interest in promoting culture and the arts.

          • CDH says:

            So the interpretation is down to Slipped Disc…again…and what we have instead is the welcome endorsement and promulgation of an idea by a leader. That sort of thing would indeed be welcome in the West. Alas, I suspect half the western leaders would not be very familiar with the name of Prokofiev.

            But as the source of this story, which ought to be a happy story, is Gergiev and Putin, therefore it must be presented as evil manipulation of artistic freedom.

            Isn’t there a word for this sort of thing?

          • Eddie Mars says:

            I am not really sure that is a fair assessment. The SD header on this story provides a summary, which is really quite fair. It is not the site’s job to provide a verified translation service for the dozens of languages which crop up in music-related stories.

            To put this to rest, here is a word-by-word translation of the RIA Novosti link (my own translation, as a Russian-speaker – so I take responsibility for its accuracy. I’ve translated more strictly than I would usually, to avoid any further misunderstandings.)

            – – – – – – – – – – – – %< – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

            Gergiev: Putin has proposed making 2016 the Year Of Sergey Prokofiev

            16:03 on 09-Dec-2015 (updated at 19:40 on 09-Dec-2015)

            "The initiative to make next year the Year Of Sergey Prokofiev was first proposed by the Russian President. I am sincerely grateful for his suggestion" said Artistic Director & General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre, Valery Gergiev.

            (Photograph of S.S.Prokofiev, credited to the RIA News Service)

            MOSCOW 09 Dec, RIA NOVOSTI. The Artistic Director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, Mr Valery Gergiev, has announced that President Vladimir Putin proposed making 2016 the Year Of Sergey Prokofiev. Russian musicians are busy preparing hundreds of performances.

            "Next year will be the 125th Anniversary of Sergey Prokofiev -the great Russian composer. Next year he will be the main figure* of concert halls and theatrical venues – not only in the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, but in Vladivostok, and in Moscow", said (Mr Gergiev) to journalists.

            "This initiative was first put forward by the Russian president. This idea was Vladimir Vladimirovich's – to make next year Prokofiev Year. It's something I not only warmly welcome – I'm sincerely grateful for the proposal", Mr Gergiev remarked.

            According to Mr Gergiev, musicians and performers will be preparing hundreds of performances all over the world.

            * lit 'the landlord'

          • norman lebrecht says:


          • V.Lind says:

            I didn’t see any demand for “verified translation service.” The story accompanying the perfectly accurate header is interpretive — the word “urged” suggests a lot of muscle when it comes from the all-powerful Putin. I agree that this initiative is a welcome one, and that most musical groups, particularly but by no meas exclusively in Russia, doubtless had their Prokofiev plans well in hand. Nor do I get the sense that those who cannot put some Prokofiev together in a hurry (any, in Russia?) will be sent to the Gulag.

            When the source is a second language only, the implication is that someone on strength can read it accurately.

            Alas, accuracy is never top priority around here. Nor is fairness. (See TSO story today). Truth is on thin ice.

        • Furzwängler says:

          It’s a somewhat futile argument about semantics, but for your info the Russian language has a vastly smaller vocabulary than English, and a considerably smaller one than German. Thus, many Russian words have two meanings, for example ruka,/, which can mean either arm or hand, or paltso, thumb or toe, according to the context. Both the words convenient or proper can be translated into Russian as udobno.

          Here endeth the lesson for today.

          • Anon says:

            According to mainstream academia, the Russian language has about the same vocabulary quantity as English, maybe slightly less. German is about the same. French has substantially less vocabulary than English, since in French more elaborate descriptive language is used rather than short particular and unique terminology. E.g. „purée de pommes de terre“ for mashed potatoes…
            The numbers gravely depend on the methodology of counting.
            All major languages can be comprehended to about 99,9% outside of focal specialization with a word base of a few thousand words.

  • esfir ross says:

    “Proper” has a lot of meaning and nuances. “Correctness” ‘s the the general word.

  • Russell Platt says:

    Lord knows that Gergiev can be uneven. But one of his greatest moments in New York was in 2009, when he conducted the Sixth Symphony with the LSO at Lincoln Center. People were thunderstruck—some talked of having discovered “Mahler’s Eleventh Symphony.”

  • Eddie Mars says:

    It’s perhaps more interesting to speculate what new Prokofiev projects will appear in 2016?

    The operas are generally poorly served in Russia. The Bolshoi has a creaking old Zambella production of Fiery Angel that really ought to go to the scrapheap. Their Gambler – the legendary fiasco which ended Rozhdestvensky’s tenure – may or may not be in serviceable condition. Both are on their last legs.

    Stanislavsky have a War & Peace that was staged to some success, to mark the 200th anniversary of the 1812 campaign. The Mariinsky have an epic-scale ‘made for export’ production of similar vintage.

    Helikon Opera have a de-Stalinised version of Story Of A Real Hero, which is extensively changed into an anti-war piece with other Prokofiev material (from Alexander Nevsky) and retitled as The Man Who Fell From The Sky. Innovative.

    But we really hope to see new productions of Love For Three Oranges, Semyon Kotko, The Duenna, and so forth.

    Will London produce any of them? Will they turn up as Proms Operas? Will anyone bring Komische Oper’s award-nominated Fiery Angel to London from Berlin, where it’s playing currently? (Directed by Benedict Andrews).

  • Hilary says:

    Ample compensation for the fact that Prokofiev’s death passed by relatively un-noticed due to being in close proximity with that of Stalin.

  • Pieter Lembrechts National Orchestra Belgium says:

    The Belgian National Orchestra organizes a festival around Sergey Prokofievs music. More info about this initiative of our music-director Andrey Boreyko on