Why I’m backing Putin on Eurovision

Why I’m backing Putin on Eurovision


norman lebrecht

April 14, 2017

The Russian president has banned a television show that violates human rights. This may not be his main reason for ordering Russian media to black out this year’s Eurovision contest, but his action sets the tone for what we should all be doing and I support him in it to the hilt.

Eurovision was designed from the outset to bring out the worst in human nature. The early years were spent gloating at the peculiarities of other ethnicities – look at the Swiss chap yodelling! why all do Italians croon? what does that Norwegian think he’s playing? (Doesn’t matter, he’ll get nul points.)

Around the midpoint, entrants started imitating American pop and singing in English. Commentators rocked with mirth. The hilarity increased as presenters realised how desperate small nations were to do well in Eurovision and how easy it was to mock their pretensions, knowing that few could afford to stage the monster show without blowing ten years of their GDP.

Ho, ho, bloody ho.

And then it got really bloody. Last year Ukraine and Russia fought a proxy war on Eurovision. Ukraine won with a song that lamented Russian acts of ethnic cleansing.

This year, Ukraine banned Russia’s singer because she had performed in Crimean territories seized by Russia.

So Russia is blacking out Eurovision.

And so should we all.

This nasty sneer show has no place in modern civilisation.


  • Mikey says:

    You’re kidding right?
    This is your idea of some sort of sarcastic joke, I hope?

    • Furzwängler says:

      I very much doubt that NL is kidding, or that it’s his idea of some kind of sarcastic joke. In fact I know a great many people, myself included, who would like nothing more than for this European ego and grudge fest finally to be abolished and put in the waste bin of musical history where it belongs.

      At least when the late-lamented Terry Wogan presented the show for the BBC it was a real pleasure to listen to – and to laugh with – him because of the inimitable way he took the p**s at the whole pretentious charade.

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    I can’t stand watching a whole Eurovision song contest. However, like with football, I love to put on the BBC news website’s blog, as it has a hilarious report, which kills the need to watch the actual songs.

  • Aria da capo says:

    You know, when you posted the news about that russian mezzo-soprano’s husband killed by a “hit squad” in Kiev, my first thought was “how will they be able to host a large scale event like the Eurovision song contest with such security issues?” That is, independetly of the quality of the music product.

  • William Osborne says:

    I think that within the next few decades musicologists will examine more closely the catastrophic effects of cultural nationalism on European history, and how classical music played an especially important role in its development — probably more than any other art form. I touch on these ideas in the second half of this article:


    • David Liberson says:

      Classical music is not and was never responsible for political developments.
      It is an art form that does — like other art forms — reflects upon society, but hardly has the capacity to influence it for the simple reason that 95% of the population take no notice of it.
      And talking about authoritarian structures in music…have you ever tried to listen to a Bach Fugue or a Beethoven String Quartet ?
      You display a deeply rooted antipathy towards classical music and I was wondering whether your own virtually non existing career as a composer and writer has caused such a gargantuan disdain ?

    • NN says:

      You are a poor man, I’m afraid. You seem to hate the Austro-German world so much that you don’t want to see that chauvinism and nationalism is all over the world and not only limited to Europe. God bless you!

      • NN says:

        Horribile est dictu, but the order of your domain (osborne-conant) is very much old school and that tells me something: man/first-wife/second and not vice versa (conant-osborne). Think about it for a moment.

        • Alexander Davidson says:

          You may in fact be wrong about that. In Britain, at any rate, when two names are combined the male name has traditionally been placed after the female name. For example, if Sir John Smith, 2nd Bt., marries Lady Jane Jones, heiress of Adam Jones, Duke of London, the combined surname will be Jones-Smith. Indeed, some old-fashioned reference works used to (and possibly still do) list such surnames alphabetically by the last part of the surname. Hence Sir Matthew Jones-Smith, 3rd Bt., will be listed under S, not J. Furthermore, one important exception is the surname Mountbatten-Windsor, which is borne by certain descendants of Queen Elizabeth II and The Prince Philip (and used by others under certain circumstances). Because Queen Elizabeth II enjoys precedence before her husband their surnames are combined to form the name Mountbatten-Windsor, not Windsor-Mountbatten. I appreciate that Osborne-Conant is not actually a surname, but it is not necessarily that case that placing the man’s surname first indicates any kind of male precedence.

          • NN says:

            Thanks. That seems to be a gentle system. However, Mr. Osborne always plays the feminist joker and so it is more than fair to check what he himself is doing when he is not bashing third parties. On his website it says “William Osborne and Abbie Conant” and not vice versa. That’s all I wanted to say and this is a clear sign of male chauvinism, I’m afraid.

          • William Osborne says:

            As the readers can see, working to bring women into the VPO, and helping my wife oppose egregious sexism in the Munich Phil, left me much hated in some circles — mostly in the German-speaking world, but also among some outside it. Fortunately, these people, and especially cowards hiding behind pseudonyms, mean very little to me. And of course, forgive me if I do not engage further with them in this blog entry.

    • Jerome Hoberman says:

      Not sure how much stock to put in an article that contains the following statement: “One of the first great autocratic conductors, Carl Maria von Weber, emerged at this time. Wagner advised him on the patriarchal art of conducting…”

      Weber died in 1826. Wagner was 13 years old, not yet a musician, nor a published author, let alone someone to whose “advice” one of the most prominent musicians in Europe might listen. Unless, of course, you have some otherwise-unheard-of documentation of a special trip Weber made to Leipzig to meet with a young reputed prophetic genius.

      Or maybe it’s some other Weber? Irving Weber, perhaps?

      • M2N2K says:

        Most likely, he meant Hans von Bülow. It must be really hard to tell all those “vons” apart.

      • Peter Henderson says:

        It’s alternative facts.

      • William Osborne says:

        Thank you for the correction. In reality it was Weber advising the child Wagner when he was 13. Not sure how I crossed the names. I’ll fix the error in the article.

        • William Osborne says:

          It’s now corrected in both the English and German versions. Leonardo Music Journal and the MIT Press had three peers review the article before publication, but none caught the error. Very embarrassing for me. Thanks again for catching it.

    • William Osborne says:

      As an example of the sort of research that I think will become more common, one might refer to “Crimes of Art and Terror” by Frank Lentricchia and Jody McAuliffe, University of Chicago Press, 2007. Read about the book on Amazon, where it can also be ordered:


      See also, “The Ethnomusicology of Western Art Music” edited by Laudan Nooshin. Specifically, Chapter 7, “The Condition of Mozart: Mozart Year 2006 and the New Vienna.” (Routledge 2014)

  • Simon Safro says:

    Last Eurovision Russian singer was much better than winner. He got the second place. This year a kind, modest handicapped lady with pretty nice voice was not allowed to come to Eurovision. What kind of fair contest it may be? I always suspected that Eurovision has political predisposition.

  • A Viennese guy says:

    Osborne has made a good few points regarding the VPO and its stance against women. But his endless tirades against classical music , almost solely related to German – Austrian issues ( he basically never touches the situation in US orchestras and their racist history ) plus factual errors like the Weber claim mentioned above disqualify him from being a reliable and impartial source of information.
    Also the statistics in his linked article are outdated, which fits the overall agenda I guess.

  • Frankie says:

    Well said, Norman – couldn’t agree more!!