Now the Times calls out Gergiev for non-rehearsal

Last week, a Munich critic broke silence over the unrehearsed state of concerts conducted by Valery Gergiev, who is music director of the city’s philharmonic orchestra.

The London Times has now chimed in. Critic Anna Picard writes today:

It seems reasonable to assume that everyone on stage at the Cadogan Hall knew the notes in front of them. This was the first of three all-Prokofiev programmes from Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra: musicians who have grown up with this music and know its virtues, its vicissitudes, its mood swings and contradictory voices.

Precision has never been part of the Gergiev-Mariinsky rough magic package. While not exactly sight-reading, the orchestra played as though rehearsing for the first time, without stopping to correct infelicities of articulation, intonation, blend, balance and ensemble.

Rough, apparently, and by no means ready.

Read full review here (paywall).

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  • Does not surprise me a bit. He conducted Mariinsky a few years ago at Carnegie in an all Stravinsky programme. It is behind obvious that everybody on stage collected a fat check for that first rehearsal play-thru.

    The most exciting part of that night was the political protest by a few audience members. All of them got kicked out shortly after he appeared on stage.

    The audience was part of the problem too. Most audience members still gave the performance a rousing standing ovation. His Carnegie concerts since then continue to be a near sold-out years in and out. That was like a vote of confidence that they could continue to get away with that.

    After that night, I avoid any concert that he conducts.

  • They were certainly rehearsing up until about 7.20! She probably wrote that in her notepad before they had even played a note. It’s a cheap remark and not one born out by what I heard.

    Although occasionally ‘rough around the edges’, I think to suggest that it sounded like a rehearsal is very wide of the mark. No matter how many times they may have played it, they played with aplomb many of the passages in the Classical Symphony that I have heard more ‘refined’ orchestras come a cropper over. Melodic lines (yes, there are some) in the third symphony were idiomatically shaped and the often thick texture opened up in places allowing plenty of space for the music to sing.

    It should be pointed out that neither the FT or Guardian in their reviews suggest they were sitting through a rehearsal. Flora Wilson (Guardian) writes of ‘minutely controlled articulation in the strings and woodwind’ in the Classical Symphony, and Richard Fairman (FT) noted the ‘characteristic Mariinsky warmth and blend of sound seemed unchanged’.

  • Am I the only one who winces when reading ‘The London Times’? There’s The Times and The New York Times, two different titles.

    • No, Theodore, but the New York Times tends to.call itself the Times in local circles, hence ‘London’ gets put in to differentiate. A bit like Catholics referred to as Roman Catholics by.other denominations – they are just Catholics. But as the Anglo-Catholics – really Protestants but they don’t like that – insist on being Catholics too, Catholics get this Roman Catholic thing thrown at them like the -err – London Times!!! Not what either call themselves!

  • Ever since he appeared on the scene I’ve badly wanted to like his work. He seemed like a weighty presence and quite gifted. But having heard his work several times now, I’m just unimpressed and rather amazed at the rather more garish aspects of his interpretations. I don’t think I own many of his recordings, but what I’ve had are either going unlistened to or being sold off on Amazon. Putin can have him.

  • A few years ago, I found myself chatting with Gergiev after a fantastic LSO performance in Boston. He was extremely gracious, and the many reports of lack of rehearsals is so sad. Such brilliance gone to waste.

  • This is nothing new. He was like this for years with the LSO and they were delighted when they got rid of him.

    I wouldn’t go to hear this charlatan if I was paid to.

  • He deigned to take the stage at 7.45 and then looking exhausted conducted the performance on both Monday and Tuesday. This meant that instead of finishing at just before 10pm it was 10.15. We had to leave before the last piece as did others in order to get our last train home. Someone should tell him about the bad transportation service in England. We did not bother to go on Wednesday even though we had tickets. Joe Volpe seems to be the only one who has ever told him off and been listened to. It is not only insulting to his audiences but also UNPROFESSIONAL but it’s too late for him to alter his ways now. He may be a god in Russia but in the west just another conductor.

  • You obviously dont have to get to Waterloo and then get the last train to the boon docks. You dont have have a to live in Yorkshire for rubbish service.

    • I am a Londoner, and know Waterloo and its services, and the Underground lines from the London concert halls to Waterloo. You must live a long way out to have to.get the last train out of Waterloo. I left London in 2012 and now live in Ilkley. So it’s what I call the booze-cruise from Leeds at 11.10pm to Ilkley after a trip to Opera North. But it’s swings and roundabouts if you leave an integrated transport system like London or even Manchester. The quality of life is far, far better than London, and so much going on. But anything north of Watford, as the saying goes, and Londoners think they are in the north pole! Good luck with travelling to.other concerts in London. Hope it’s not always the last train for you from Waterloo! Nice to.talk to you …

  • My other home is in north Wales try living there and you have to go to the cinema in the afternoon as nothing after 8p.m.!!!

  • I have never heard a Gergiev performance live but after this review, reading Tom Service’s book on conductors where he followed Gergiev in rehearsals and performances, plus YouTube video, I have to agree with Anne Picard. While technical perfection by itself is often a primary goal for orchestras, there is more which I believe Gergiev brings. However, it is a mystery that he not only allows this kind of unacceptable sloppiness, but also seems incredibly to not notice, which is clear by Service’s accounts of rehearsals. Even worse is that there are conductors laboribg in obscurity who would never allow this sort of unprofessional performing to be perpetrated on a paying audience. Of course as some of you mention, it does no good for an ignorant crowd to wildly applaud such travesty; it’s like a standing ovation for the sports team that plays sloppily, looks completely unprepared, and loses the game (huh???!!!!!). It is a sad commentary on the level of standards we as the public accept and the ignorance it betrays. I can’t blame Gergiev as much as I blame those who allow what he does to go on as being even remotely acceptable. Can you imagine after the early triumphs of a young Michaelangelo that his later sculptures be riddled with nicks and cracks, his Mona Lisa distorted with bad lighting, perspective, sloppy paint strokes, and careless detail and be raved about by the public? Please use real standards, don’t be bamboozled by “star power”, or by the accolades of clueless followers. We little minions daily are scrutinized in our professions often to the edge of reason and are called upon to answer for our results. We should do the same for everyone on all levels especially including our gods.

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