Munich recoils as Valery Gergiev takes part in Putin’s weapons show

Munich recoils as Valery Gergiev takes part in Putin’s weapons show


norman lebrecht

February 01, 2018

Munich is up in arms today – literally – at a report on the Kremlin website that Valery Gergiev took part this week in a show of strength by President Putin and the Russian military.

The Abendzeitung reporter, Robert Braunmüller, spotted this paragraph in a Kremlin report on Putin’s assessment of the Syrian conflict and the future military options.

In this part of the exhibit the President was met by Valery Gergiev who conducted the symphony orchestra concert in Palmyra after its liberation. The President and the Maestro had a brief conversation and then listened to a piece from the Preobrazhensky Regiment March – it was played by Mariinsky Theatre musicians invited to the exhibition.

photo: Tass

Gergiev is music director of the city orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic. It was leaked at the weekend that Gergiev’s Munich contract is to be renewed until 2025.

But the has still to be approved by the city council in February 21, and that may not be a foregone conclusion.




  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    He has to “behave” in order to ensure his theatres continue to get state funding. Walking a tightrope is not easy and hundreds of employees depend on him.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Indeed. But it shows how easily authoritarian / antidemocratic regimes can mobilize the arts for their legitimization. G said of P: finally a politician who cares about culture, I did not see that in the West.

      • David Nice says:

        Macron? Merkel? Rather better options to throw one’s lot in with. Anyway, this has been going on for years. Pity VG couldn’t have followed Shostakovich’s example and kept quiet most of the time instead of shooting his mouth off about homosexuality as pedophilia and Obama responsible for Syria’s ruin etc. Result? An awful lot of people, myself included, stay away from his UK appearances.

  • anon says:

    Munich might as well kowtow to its master now. Sooner or later, Russian troops will march into this non-nuclear power to occupy it. And if Germany is counting on Trump or NATO to stop Putin at the borders, dream on.

    • John Kelly says:

      Any US President EXCEPT Trump would stop them, hopefully we don’t have much longer to wait for a change on that front…………………maximum 3 years, likely less………….

      • Cubs Fan says:

        As expected, the Trump haters once again display TRS. The Donald has been clear that he would protect NATO members from threats. Remember Obama who did nothing to help Ukraine. Fortunately, we get Trump for 3, maybe 7 more years. The US economy is going great, optimism is high.

        • Michael Comins says:

          And Cubs owner is a Trump sycophant, as well….

          • Cubs Fan says:

            Nope. Didn’t vote for him primary. Couldn’t stand his TV show – he’s shallow, a bully, a know-it-all. But the election gave us two horrible people for choices. Looking at things honestly and realistically, he’s not doing so bad, especially for someone who never held public office. Lot’s of room for improvement, no doubt. Not a sycophant, but not a hater, either.

        • John Kelly says:

          ………and the Cubs will win the World Series one day……………..

    • Saxon Broken says:

      The idea that Putin would invade Germany is bizarre, and the idea that it would succeed easily is even stranger. It would struggle to militarily defeat Poland let alone Germany. And would the rest of the EU, Britain, and the US (whomsoever the President) sit and let it happen? Of course not.

      Some mildly annoying behaviour (for “the West”) in some places historically “Russian” or “near Russian” is not really the same as an immediate and serious danger to the West.

  • LKB says:

    If Gergiev candidates to be Mayor of Munich, this story would kill his ambitions. And rightly so.
    But as far as I remember he is there to conduct an orchestra. And as far as I remember, that´s what he does instead of giving speeches.

    Last time I saw him, he was with the Munich Phil in Berlin, September 2016.
    Ustwolskajas 3rd Symphonie and Shostakowitsch 4.
    Orchester was on stage, we all waited. Time passed by, no Gergiev.
    No one annonced anything. After 20 (!) Minutes Gergiev entered the stage, facing a furious crowd. I never heard anything like it in the Philharmionie.

    Gergiev conducted the Ustwolskaja, and he did well. When the applause set in, he was very shy, went to the side of the stage, seemingly uncomfortable, giving Alexei Petrenki all the credt.
    We thought, Gergiev was the culprit for the delay. So his modesty was taken as a kind of excuse. And welcomed. It changed the mood.

    Later we learnt it wasn´t his fault at all. There was a miscommunication and Alexei Petrenko wasn´t ready, thinking the concert would start an hour later than it actually did. Gergeiv took the heat, acted like a gentleman and changed the hostile mood with his behaviour completly.
    After the break he conducted DSCH 4, and it was great. It was fantastic. Breathtaking.
    The audience went wild. For admiration this time.

    Whatever Gergiev thinks, whatever his political views – he was great on that evening. Great as a musician and as a human beeing, in my view.
    I don´t know how I´d handeled this situation. Couldn´t have done better for sure.

    When I saw him before he conducted Prokofiev 6 mit der Berl Phil, and it was marvelous.
    Maybe I am wrong, but when I go to the concert hall – these are the things, that matter for me. I don´t see any of his musical qualities (and I´m aware he is not undisputed in this field ether) reduced by this relationship to Putin.
    If he´d start to praise him while conducting it would be different. And maybe he does. Maybe his gruntling is in fact russian propaganda. Can´t know, I don´t speak russian.

    I am nearly sure I would wildly dispute him on russian foreign policy.
    But I don´t expect him to be on my side in these questions.

    I expect him to make good music. In this regard he never failed me.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    + 100%

  • Edward McGuire says:

    I agree with the comments of LKB above. And, why shouldn’t Gergiev support his government? His actions and those of his musicians were heroic in going to play in liberated Palmyra – defying some of the worst terrorists in the world. It also demonstrated the great role classical music can play in the advancement of peace and civilisation.

    • David Nice says:

      Make no mistake, Gergiev is not about ‘peace and civilization’, since Putin certainly isn’t, and it is Putin he is perhaps duty bound, Faustian-pact style, to serve. Never forget he conducted the first movement of Shostakovich’s ‘Leningrad’ Symphony in a concert making the parallel between the Nazi invasion of the first movement and the Georgians. It needs repeating that he has toed the Putin line equating homosexuality and paedophila in Russia, which is as good as promoting hate crimes. I have so admired much of what he has done in the past – the more recent performances of his I heard before I stopped going were bloated – and always enjoyed talking to him, so I take no pleasure in all this.

      • Anon says:

        Putin’s Russia is much less dangerous than the US these days. If you are able to think independently and check reality occasionally, that is. How supposedly intelligent people can fall so easily for all this perpetual propaganda is saddening.

        • David Nice says:

          Says what kind of Putinista? The Horror Clown’s America is hugely dangerous, but that doesn’t cancel out the ongoing subterfuges of Putin – cleverer and therefore more worrying. And there’s no known record of the Moron-in-Chief having people killed. You might like to note that only today a distinguished historian of the Gulag has been released after 13 months of ‘pre-trial detention’ on trumped-up charged of possessing child pornography. And Putin has just re-named a regiment the ‘Tallinn Division’, obscene.

  • harold braun says:


  • Sally Denkers says:

    I wonder why you choose to promote negative news about Valery Gergiev. He appears to be a man of integrity and humility with a mission to unite the nations of this world through music and culture. Of course, he would have ties and allegiance to Putin, who seems to strongly support culture in his country and has encouraged it through Gergiev’s strides to bring it to even the most remote areas of Russia. I remember a very congenial interview that you had with Gergiev some years back that, I believe, took place in Mikkeli. I had the feeling that you were fond of him and respected him. In the past few years I have detected a penchant to often slander Valery Gergiev in your column. What happened???

    • David Nice says:

      He subsequently went too far in things he never needed to have said. Simple. I see no integrity in his slipshod attitude to rehearsing, either.

    • F.W. says:

      Perhaps David chooses to promote negative news about Gergiev because there is so much to choose from?

      Integrity?? Artistic integrity yes, (generally) human integrity no, never!! He is and always has been a boor when dealing with people whom he cannot use to his advantage.
      This from personal experience dating back to the 80’s….

  • David H Spence says:

    Thank you, David Nice, for making known your protest, as Karita Mattila and I’m sure others have also done. There is better for the Munich PO available, such as Ingo Metzmacher, Edward Gardner, Bertrand de Billy, Fabio Luisi, even Kent Nagano or Kazushi Ono perhaps, the latter a good protege of Sawallisch. Politicizing the Munich PO is far from being any good idea at all and Gergiev’s more streamlined manner with things a long time ago has become a little wearisome.