Radio France is attacked for engaging Gergiev on Bastille Day

Radio France is attacked for engaging Gergiev on Bastille Day


norman lebrecht

July 16, 2017

The cultural commentator Antoine Perraud has compared the hiring of Putin-puppet Valery Gergiev on Bastille Day to Radio France’s past error in favouring Herbert von Karajan who conducted in Paris under Nazi occupation.

The full article is pay-walled, but this gives the general gist:

En confiant, pour le traditionnel concert du Champ-de-Mars, l’Orchestre national de France au grand chef Valery Gergiev, salaud politique au sens sartrien du terme, le service public verse dans la bassesse, au nom du panem et circenses…


Pour ce 14-Juillet 2017, Radio France – dans le rôle du grand… « crétinstitutionnel » ! – justifie l’injustifiable par la voix de son président, Mathieu Gallet : « Valery Gergiev est un des plus grands chefs d’orchestre. C’est un immense honneur qu’il nous fait de venir diriger les musiciens le soir de notre fête nationale. Je ne veux pas commenter les choix qu’il peut faire au niveau politique. Il ne s’agit que de musique ce soir-là. Sa stature et sa renommée médiatique sont une chance pour nous puisque cela permet au plus grand nombre d’écouter de la musique classique à une heure de grande écoute. Le Concert de Paris est devenu un vrai rendez-vous avec le grand public. »

Traduction : on a réussi un sacré coup de pub pour en mettre plein la vue des gogos et gonfler l’audimat avec une bête de scène qui va rapporter gros. Contexte : ce « Concert de Paris du 14 juillet » est diffusé en direct sur France Inter, France 2 puis, en différé, sur CultureBox.


  • harold braun says:


  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Herbert joined the Nazi party not once but twice, extremely obnoxious to compare him to Gergiev.

    • Paddy Blair Mayne says:

      Indeed, he was originally called Ibert at the time, by changing it to Herbert he made himself more marketable!

      • Pedro says:

        His name was Heribert Ritter von Karajan. Too long for publicity and record covers, indeed. He was my preferred conductor. Personal taste. No one is obliged to agree.

    • Pedro says:

      This is not an excuse but Karajan was only 24 when he joined the Nazi party. Unlike the much older Fürtwangler, for instance, he avoided party masses. He only wanted to conduct and to advance in his career. More an opportunist than a criminal. He was a much better conductor than Gergiev, by the way.

      • Elizabeth Owen says:

        Furtwangler was the best ever conducter. Did you see the Pinter play about the trials after the war, hmm?
        He also helped many Jewish musicians in the Berlin Phil. What did Herbert do? Still shouldn’t compare them with the situation in Russia.

        • Gonout Backson says:

          The play is called “Taking Sides”, has been filmed in 2001, and its author is Ronald Harwood, non Pinter.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Perraud is right. 14 Juillet is about freedom from exploitation and oppression, and inviting a musician who lets himself eagerly exploited by a regime cultivating these two primitive endeavors, is an embarrassing faux pas.

    • Holly Golightly says:

      France doesn’t care about its own heritage; that’s the only conclusion you can reach once you look at their immigration policy. Honestly, I don’t care what they do.

  • William Osborne says:

    One of the major plazas in Paris is named Place de la Bataille-de-Stalingrad. Many ironies in the name, but the Soviet victory in that battle was the turning point of the war and signaled Germany’s eventual defeat — something that was essential to France’s very existence. Generally speaking, the relations between nations should not be based on petty snubs and focus on the larger picture. The stakes are often too high for small-mindedness.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That’s entirely besides the point. There is much reason to reject a Russian regime which tries to undermine the West, and artists who, no doubt out of sincere patriotism, support a regime which is in the first place damaging for their own country, should not be involved in freedom celebrations. The Russian regime pays populist parties all over Europe with the intention to create instability and the breaking-up of the EU – why? Because of the values that the EU tries to cultivate, develop and implement and which are based upon the first stirrings of 1789.

      • Anon says:

        I think you have your sequence of causalities the wrong way around.
        There is a certain ‘regime’ who calls themselves ‘the leader of the free world’ which is undermining Russia for a long time int he first place, moving its proxy organization Nato closer and closer to Russia’s borders, stirs archetypical fears with Russia’s neighbors to deepen the divide, etc.
        It was Putin who tried to reach out to the west, and tried to improve relations with Europe.
        Watch his speeches from the early 2000s from the Munich security conferences for a start.
        The whole development must be understood under the general rule of Pax Americana, which also includes, that the “bridge head” Europe must be controlled by the US, it must be kept divided from “black hole” Russia (since the collaboration of resource rich Russia with advanced Western Europe would be a existential threat to US supreme rule of the economical and political world).
        The rest is tactical politics and history.

        • Alexander says:

          +10 😉

        • John Borstlap says:

          The role of the US does not in the slightest diminish the reality of the observations that the Russian regime tries to undermine Europe. Blaming the West for everything that goes wrong in the world is a leftish Chomsky game, legitimizing the crimes perpetrated on the other side. Of course the West treated post-soviet Russia badly and without much understanding, but that does not mean the R’s regime’s character is thereby excused:

        • John says:

          You appear to accept Putin and his ‘reaching out to the west’ at face value. I look at the man and his record, and at the very minimum I see dozens of people who have opposed him finding themselves ‘mysteriously’ died or ‘murdered’ or disappeared into prisons. His actions in Crimea, the Ukraine and Ossetia, just to name three, do more for me to define Russia.

          Make no mistake about it, I’m an American and I’m also ashamed of our current president and his thuggish ignorance. Trust me, if you watched the meetings two weeks ago at the G20 Summit where he was routinely snubbed and ignored, I think you’d see that my country is rapidly abdicating any right to the title of ‘leader of the free world’.

          Just as I would have opposed Furtwangler’s participation in some event like this were he alive today, I also am disgusted by Gergiev’s as well. It really seems a very tone-deaf move on the part of Radio France.

        • Gonout Backson says:

          “…moving its proxy organization Nato closer and closer to Russia’s borders…”.

          This is, of course, blatant nonsense. After 45 years of Russian occupation, several independent and sovereign nations expressed their wish to join NATO, as they had every right to do. The first three former Russian protectorates, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary, had to wait TEN YEARS before NATO let them in. Others waited some more. Others are still waiting. In Bucharest, in April 2008, NATO decided it would not yet offer membership to Georgia and Ukraine. Germany and France didn’t want to “irritate” Russia. Russia’s eloquent “thank you” came in August of the same year. You should try something new, really.

  • Gregor Tassie says:

    There are two themes here; one whether there should be sanctions against Russian musicians and another about Gergiev himself as a musician. May I comment that music has traditionally helped people know each other better and that in the present climate, we do need more exchanges between people as the dangers of war have never been greater. In the case of Gergiev, he has done a fantastic job resurrecting the Mariinsky as a world class company and also has found funding to build a new opera house, a new symphony concert hall and a chamber hall. He has produced his own record company and with whatever orchestra he works with he fills concert halls and theatres wherever he goes.
    For Norman to call Russia a ‘regime’ perhaps he should look at his own government as more akin to a regime in governance with a extreme right party and with an agenda (DUP) and supporting immoral policies. At least Putin was elected with a majority.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Also the Tories were elected with a majority, and the stupid brexit plan – a mass seduction based on lies, Soviet Russia and the current Turkey worthy – was chosen as a nice utopia by all the British affected by the mad cow disease.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      You wouldn’t know if Putin was indeed “elected by a majority”. No honest, lawful and democratic elections have taken place in Russia for years.

  • Stephen says:

    Comparing Putin to the Nazis is wildly inaccurate and shows a poor knowledge of Russia and its leader. For a start, thanks to Putin ‘ordinary’ citizens are much better off now. And, compared with some world leaders, including in the West, he is a rational man with a certain vision of the future, vastly preferable to the hotheads and myopics to be found elsewhere.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      Careful, there. You should remember a certain concert in Tskhinvali conducted by Mr Gergiev under Putin’s orders, where the famous Maestro didn’t hesitate to play… Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” Symphony, to make it clear in everybody’s mind he (Putin? Gergiev? both?) considers Saakashvili as some sort of Hitler.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    If it wasn’t for Russia the second world war would have been lost and we would all be speaking German. Funny how short people’s memories are,.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Talking about memories: it was purely Russia’s self-defence to join the allies, not some commitment to civilization, as the pulverizing atrocities of its regime testify. And after WW II, it was Russia who started the cold war – as it ended it, because it had started it. Not to speak of the devastating effect of tearing-off Eastern Europe from the developments of the continent, the scars of which are still very visible.

      • Mike Schachter says:

        Quite, the late unlamented British politician Tony Benn said on radio that the Soviet Union cam to Britain’s aid during WWII. Not quite the truth.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      “If it wasn’t for Russia” and a certain Pact – WW II might have never happened.


    I fully agree with Pedro,s comments iam myself a great admirer of Herbert Von Karajan even thought he had a huge ego and was an opportunist.and yes he did join the Nazi party but so did many others at that time to further there careers but because Karajan had such remarkable talent that he became the greatest conductor of the 20th century like him or loath him.

  • Sylvia says:

    People are not their governors, why should artists, such as Gergiev, should be banned in name of freedom and not praised in the name of art?
    I think Gergiev is very talented, Putin is not half the monster represented by the West media and not all the woes from the world come from Russia… we all have our share…
    Just for the record: Bastille Day celebrates the end of the Royaute, that ultimately lead to the rise of an Emperor, that actually tried to invade Russia…

    • Gonout Backson says:

      He should be banned for having signed a certain letter in support of Putin’s annexion of Crimea.
      Congratulations for your “remembrance of things past” : Napoleon! That’s new.