An injured orchestra cellist plays for pennies on the street

An injured orchestra cellist plays for pennies on the street


norman lebrecht

October 11, 2018

The Spanish media are reporting the case of  Vladimir von Litvikh, 51, a founding member of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, who is now playing on the streets to supplement his meagre pension after having a leg amputated.

He earns about 15 Euros a day.


Read here.


  • Sharon Beth Long says:

    About ten years ago I heard a French woman, soon after she learned what senior citizens centers were, commenting on how great the United States was to have them and that they did not exist in France. I too late thought to tell her that the main purpose of senior citizens centers in the US is to provide hot meals for seniors because their pensions are so inadequate and that the reason that there are no senior citizens centers in France is because they are unnecessary since pensions were adequate, at least at that time.

    I have read that social service safety net has declined all over Europe and I know that Spain was having some government deficit problems but I was surprised to read that a formerly prominent musician is busking for a living in Spain although I would not be at all surprised to read about something like that happening in the US.

    They say that one can judge a society by how it treats its most marginalized and vulnerable. This treatment is declining all over the world. Yes, Von Litvikh’s situation is indeed heartrending but what is very upsetting is that his situation is so similar to hundreds of thousands of people in the so called wealthy developed countries.

    Furthermore, how a government treats its own citizens is, in my opinion, an important indicator of how it will treat citizens of other countries with regard to immigration, foreign aid, or its willingness to engage in or support violent conflict. Thus, Litvikh’s situation, because of what it symbolizes about the western world is not just heart rending and upsetting but also frightening

    The debate is not just guns or butter. It is between guns and supporting the vulnerable and the arts.–and art showsus, in many different ways, how vulnerable we all are or all can be.

  • Caravaggio says:

    Utterly sad and shameful

  • Elisabeth Matesky says:

    Having just seen this posted on Facebook (great job, Norman Lebrecht), I’m truly upset to see such
    a fine nd most accmplished ‘Cellist, due to being injured, out on a Street, playing beautifully I’m sure,
    for Help ~ Sharon Beth Long has written in her Comments about a Truth & the State of Crisis, any artist
    or Veteran of War or innocent human person is being subjected to at this horrid time since WW II which
    is, as Caravaggio says, “Utterly sad and shameful” ~ My feelings tell me to say to Me2’s, Go soak your
    Head, & quit complaining about having decent jobs. Go rage about Real Realities in Spain, other parts of
    Europe and here at home in America, for Heaven’s Sake ~ This gentleman is forced to Play-Beg when a
    Society all over this Earth (and shamefully in America) ignores or doesn’t wake up to what may well be
    The Future … I propose a major Orchestra in London – perhaps the LSO, donate their time to play some
    Great Spanish works (Ravel & Rodrigo) to raise Funds for Vladimir Von Litvikh’s medical costs, Special Needs,
    i.e., an especially equipped ramp & easy to reach from a Wheel chair kitchen & bathroom items needed ~

    Perrhaps the LSO with our CSO can perform a “Side by Side” via streamed “Ravel for Injured Vladimir von Litvikh’s
    Special Needs NOW” done through technology & a Conductor or 2 (Rattle & Riccardo Muti, here in Chicago
    as Music Director of the CSO), splitting Conducting duties ~ The Programme needn’t be Long as both LSO &
    CSO player’s who sign on will be asked to do so ‘pro bono’ ~ What about this, Norman Lebrecht?? We have a
    CSO Reunion mañana, Friday, October 12th, starting around 2:00 PM in Concert & then Dinner & Speeches around
    5:00 or 5:30 PM, Chicago time, & I could try bringing this to the Attention of our CSOAA President, my also
    Neighbour!!! ??

    What do you think, Mr. L., & Commenter’s here?? Hurry! It’s Thursday, 11/10/2018 @ 11:13 AM in Chicago, USA ~

  • He’s not living on the street. He has a car, he drives to this location to play, according to the article. He also has private students.

    The Google translation of the article is a bit hazy but it’s not clear why couldn’t return to playing in the orchestra after recovering from the surgery. Perhaps he is no longer able to play at that level but it doesn’t say that.

    I’m sure this is a disappointing outcome for a 51-year-old but it has to be better than what it would be in his native Russia. Where would you rather play on the street… Spain or St. Petersburg?

  • Anonymous says:

    Spain actually has a pretty good disability system. There are 3 levels of permanent disability possible: 33%, 55% or 100% of your last salary, depending on the seriousness of your injury. Plus one more catagory which pays you more than your last salary if you are so disabled that you must pay someone to care for you. If you are over 55, 20% is added to your pension award amount.

    The process is very slow and bureaucratic. You must spend at least a year and a half on temporary disability, after which time a tribunal of Social Security doctors evaluate all of your medical records and examine you to confirm your disability. You have to dot all the i’s and cross the t’s.

    WIth the financial crisis, Spain’s Social Security has been very stingy about handing out the 100% disability. It used to be fairly easy, but rumors have been that recently you have to prove you’re at death’s door to get it. Now that the economy is improving, it’s getting easier again. Also if you don’t present all of your paperwork correctly – which this cellist admits he did not do – you risk your case.

    So it looks like Vladimir didn’t present the right paperwork and probably applied for his disability at the height of the economic crisis, when drs. were being the stingiest. He must be under 55, because he is only getting the 55% of his OSG orch. salary. That’s about 1000 euros a month.

    So he has a pension. I have to say I’m surprised that with the obvious loss of a leg, he was not awarded the full 100%. He should challenge that legally. But the thing is, with that type of pension he is still allowed to work part time and can teach and even play under certain circumstances. Spain is full of productive citizens who receive partial disabilities and work.

    So this is a little misleading. He is not poverty stricken. Minimum wage in Spain was just raised to 900 euros a month, and he’s earning that and possibly more for not working. I think he just wants to plays in the street, to be quite honest.

  • Sharon B Long says:

    In the United States I have a friend who desperately needs a disability pension but because he can work part time at a low paying job he cannot get it Furthermore, in the US social security disability pensions are grossly inadequate. In the United States people generally have to apply several times to receive social security disability. It has become very difficult to obtain