Russia’s bid to reclaim Rachmaninov is halted

Russia’s bid to reclaim Rachmaninov is halted


norman lebrecht

February 08, 2016

The bold attempt by Putin’s culture minister Vladimir Medinski to repatriate the body from a Valhalla cemetery outside New York was blocked by the composer’s descendants.

A long-running initiative, backed by Putin himself in 2013, to purchase Rachmaninov’s Swiss mansion, Villa Senar, beside Lake Lucerne, has also got nowhere. The estate is still up for sale.



And no more has been heard of a desire to revive the Rachmaninov Competition in Moscow, defunct since 2008.

Like much else in Putin land, it appears the dream has run out of steam.



  • Peter says:

    Does Putin bashing make you feel better?

  • John Borstlap says:

    Interestingly, the Villa Senar (photo) is a modernist, white Bauhaus-block, emanating the sterile, desinfected presence of 20C utopianism, as if to underline that R was, by al means, a 20C composer.

  • Eddie Mars says:

    [[ Like much else in Putin land, it appears the dream has run out of steam.]]

    So true. Moscow has only got six full-time opera theatres – each with its own separate chorus, orchestra, line-up of soloists, and own theatre building. Well, that’s if you don’t count the Sats Children’s Music Theatre (which would otherwise be No 7), since it only has a 50% repertoire of opera.

    St Petersburg has three – the Mariinsky, the Maly, and St Petersburg Opera.

    Vladivostok is now an additional stage of the Mariinsky, with international-level performances.

    Yes, that steam is certainly ebbing, eh?

    • John Borstlap says:

      For Russians, art is still an important part of life and of the responsibility of the state. In the Soviet era, the state misused the arts as a means of legitimization, which it strongly needed because of the entirely immoral and criminal nature of the state, a rogue empire. Nowadays, that Soviet mentality towards the arts seems to be reborn. It should ring alarm bells, not invoke defense reactions.

      Nowadays, Russia buys itself into the core of European rightwing parties with the aim to undermine Europe as a whole, so that it can get its way in East Europe, restoring the power of the Soviet Union. Artists should be aware of that…

      • Milka says:

        Most artists aren’t aware of anything when there is a buck to be made.

      • Eddie Mars says:

        [[ Nowadays, Russia buys itself into the core of European rightwing parties ]]


        That would explain why Russia is being booted around like a football by the Foreign Ministers of Germany, Britain, France, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and others, then??

        • Ellingtonia says:

          Blood hell, I didn’t realise that we had a Stalinist apologist on this board………what next, the Gulag was a holiday home for retired dissidents?

          • Peter says:

            Are you for real? Wake up. Your clock is 60 years behind. Today there is only one super power that is destabilizing relentlessly Europe, the Middle East and wants to police the whole world, and it ain’t Russia…

        • John Borstlap says:

          There has been extensive research into the way European rightwing parties: Wilders in the Netherlands, Le Pen in France, and similar parties in Germany and Austria, receive big sums from Russia. Wilders and Le Pen (Marine) were received like statesmen in Moskau, they are very keen to help Russia blow-up any European collaboration. If these parties get really strong, the EU will fall apart and will be powerless to withstand Russian pressures on every level. German TV showed it on sunday… I can’t find it anymore, but it was a long documentary which was really worrying. All this would have serious implications for culture and thus for classical music.

      • jaypee says:

        Interestingly I attended a concert in Saint-Petersburg and an opera in Moscow about 5 years ago and they were the most surreal performances I have ever attended. And I’ven seen hundreds and hundreds of concerts in several countries.

        In Saint-Petersburg, it was Gergiev conducting the Marinsky Orchestra with Ravel’s G major piano concerto, Mahler’s adagio from the 10th symphony and Ravel’s Daphnis & Chloe, second suite.
        The concert (at the beautiful Marinsky Hall) stated about 25 minutes late -without an explanation- and people came and left during the performance and didn’t seem to care at all for the spectators or the music, several applauded between movements while several others were texting…
        In Moscow, it was Wozzeck at the “small” Bolshoi conducted by Currentzis. I admit, Russia might still not be ready for Wozzeck but again, the audience was loud, disrespectful for the musicians and the audience.

        While I know about Russia’s rich musical history, I must say that when it comes to audience nowadays, I have serious doubt about their interest.
        The 60 000 Viennese who were at the last Rolling Stones concert in Vienna displayed more respect for the music and the musicians than the Russians I saw in Saint-Petersburg in Moscow.

        Or maybe I was just unlucky…

        • MacroV says:

          I think you were unlucky. In the two years I lived in Moscow a decade ago, I heard about 100 concerts/opera performances and always found the audiences great. Enjoyed the students at the Conservatory sneaking into the cheap seats, cellos in hand.

      • Peter says:

        That’s hilarious nonsense. Saying such a thing, while in full day light the US under the disguise of NATO tried to roll into Ukraine, Georgia… destabilized the whole Middle East to this Armageddon we have today. Caused (sic!) the refugee crisis in Syria and forces now Merkel to take the refugees and keep the borders open, even though the Germans don’t want to… I mean, what have you been drinking?

        • John Borstlap says:

          You should read better newspapers and look at better news stations and keep an eye on documentaries. NATO did not roll into the Ukraine. Any intention to relate to the west came form the populations themselves, eastern-Europeans wanted to belong to West-Europe to restore their own past (before 1914 Eastern-Europe was a normal part of the continent) and get away from the Big Primitive Bear. Ukraine’s tragedy is that the east of the country is entirely oriented to Russia, in terms of culture and language and also economically bound. And by the way, the onslaught in the middel east was not caused by NATO or the USA, that is one of those silly myths born from hatred of America, as if those Arabian countries are so pure and innocent. It has been a longstanding Pavlov reflex to think that any wrong in the world is caused by the USA, implying that Arabs, Iranians, Syrians, Jihadists and Jemenites are all beautiful and noble savages with entirely highminded intentions for the world and their own environment. This America- ‘hetze’ is an outdated fashion from the sixties, during the Vietnam War, when the Vietcong were superheros and Americans bastards. How nice if the world were that simple…..

          Russia forms a serious threat to Europe, period. And it ahs become a primitive, popuist country. Imagine a situation where the EU has disintegrated, money for culture getting scarce, and orchestras and opera houses becoming dependent upon money from Putin.

          • Peter says:

            You are surprising me in your childish black and white world view.
            It is my experience, that people educated in parts of Western Europe and the US have the highest percentage of calcified brains, unable to adapt and solve the intellectual problems of an ever changing world. Which is probably because the live in saturated too convenient environments. It would make any mind lazy and loose its flexibility. Essentially you seem to operate with a mindset that was conditioned about 40-60 years ago.

            If you study carefully the history of the Middle East you will understand. Here is no time and space to discuss al this in detail. But just a small example. Still in the 70s in Iran, 80s in Iraq, Syria, Libya, most women dressed western style, no headscarf, enjoyed rights and equal access to education. The interventions by the US changed that.
            The intervention by the US in Afghanistan, happening before the Soviets went in to back the progressive regime, put that country back into the stone age.
            The US intervention in Iraq put that country back into the stone age.
            The US intervention in Libya put that country back into the stone age.
            The US intervention is Syria is about to put that country…
            Who do you think destabilized Syria and started the fire there by supporting secretly and through the usual useful idiots “Saudi foundations” [that kind of proxy warfare works like a charm for decades for the US]? Hint: it ain’t Russia. Russia’s interest was a stable Syria, it’s their ally and their naval base is there.
            Who do you think has an interest to destabilize and weaken Europe to a certain degree so it can’t threaten a superpowers global hegemony? Hint: it aint Russia. Actually read a few speeches by Putin in the first years of his first presidency. He was looking for collaboration with Europe. Guess who was driving the divide between Europe and Russia by playing on old fears. Hint: It wasn’t Russia.

        • Furzwängler says:

          I advise you to stop watching or listening to Russia Today (RT). That way you may gain a sense of reality away from the Russo-Trolls who operate it (a couple of whom may be found on this blog too).

  • Scott Tilley says:

    They’ll have a hard time retrieving him from California. Rachmaninoff is buried in Valhalla, New York.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    Rachmaninoff (his spelling) lived in California at the end of his life, but he was buried in Valhalla cemetery in West Chester county, New York.

  • Milka says:

    Poor Rachmaninoff he couldn’t stand so called Russian civilization while alive now the muzhiks want the body back to show the world they are not a backward people .

    • Peter says:

      Contrary to the hillbillies in the US who don’t even know Rachmaninoff, or think it is a vodka.

      • Milka says:

        Most so called hillbillies don’t drink the dreadful Russian vodka .
        Those that drink vodka drink the elegant Polish vodka as does the more civilized Russian.
        Just remember Ekatrina brought western civilization to mother Russia along with
        Polish vodka which she picked up on her way from Prussia , a gift from her Polish
        lover who felt it would ease the pain of being with Russian muzhiks on those dreary
        winter nights.

        • Furzwängler says:

          I imagine you’re thinking of polish Zhubrowka or Bison Vodka, very nice stuff indeed. However to be fair there are also some extremely fine Russian vodkas, many of which I got to know intimately during the 20-odd years I spent doing business with Soviet ministries in the old USSR and then later with neo-wannabe-biznizmyenki out to make a quick fortune in the New Old Reality that is Russia. Pshenitshnaya vodka, made from wheat, springs to mind as being particularly palatable. One can hardly blame the Empress Catherine for wanting to blot out the pain of being with uncouth russian muzhiki on those long dark evenings, however you may be sure that, had she imbibed russian rather than polish “Voditshka”, then it would have been something rather better than the foul and near-lethal brews favoured by the xhanigi and the bomzhyes of Moscow and the other big cities.

          • Milka says:

            Prefer a good Polish potato vodka .Find the Russian stuff too edgy and you must eat
            something immediately after the shot to take the harsh edge away ,whereas the
            Polish stuff is quite smooth . Just a matter of preference .

  • Eric Koenig says:

    When Rakhmaninov arrived in America following the Bolshevik Revolution, he was asked by reporters his opinion on the current political events in Russia. He angrily replied, “There is no Russia!” As long as extremists are in power, let him rest in peace in exile. Bartók died in 1945, only 2 years after Rakhmaninov, and forbade any reburial in Hungary or to be honored in Hungary by having buildings, streets etc. named after him so long as Fascists were in power. He wasn’t reburied there until the late 1980’s with the fall of Communism. Ironically, the right-wing Fidesz has come to power and the Fascists are back, as they are in Russia.