French artists support Armenia. Just not musicians

French artists support Armenia. Just not musicians


norman lebrecht

November 20, 2020

Le Figaro has published an artists manifesto of support for Armenia, a nation abandoned by its Russian ally to Azeri-Turkish aggression.

There are some impressive names in the list below, but where are the musicians? Did they not think to ask the Labeque sisters, the Capucons, the Buniatishvilis, Emmanuelle Haim (pictured), Natalie Dessay, the conductors Minkowski, Roth, Auguin, Bringuier, Morlot? Or were the classical artists advised by their agents not to take sides?


Simon Abkarian, Bruno Abraham-Kremer, Alain Altinoglu, Karine Arabian, Fanny Ardant, Ariane Ascaride, Yvan Attal, Jacques Attali, Serge Avédikian, Nicolas Aznavour, Georges Bensoussan, François Berléand, Stéphane Bern, Daniel Bilalian, Juliette Binoche, Dany Boon, Guillaume Bourgogne, Hamit Bozarslan, Stéphane Breton, Dany Brillant, Pascal Bruckner, Jean-Christophe Buisson, Claudia Cardinale, Virginie Carton, Gérard Chaliand, Françoise Chandernagor, Jean-Luc Choplin, Grégoire Colin, Jean-François Colosimo, Costa-Gavras, Boris Cyrulnik, Audrey Dana, Xavier Darcos, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Anahit Dasseux Ter-Mesropian, Didier Decoin, Marina Dédéyan, Arnaud Delalande, Alain Delon, Olivier Delorme, François-Xavier Demaison, Anaïs Demoustier, Éric Denécé, Négar Djavadi, Karim Dridi, Michel Drucker, Alain Duault, Alain Ducasse, Jean Dujardin, Vincent Duclert, Atom Egoyan, Frédéric Encel, Sophie Fontanel, Caroline Fourest, Thierry Frémont, Laurent Gaudé, Yves de Gaulle, Laurent Gerra, Franz-Olivier Giesbert, Isabelle Giordano, Thierry Godard, Robert Guédiguian, David Haroutunian, Roland Hayrabedian, Michel Hazanavicius, Laurent Herbiet, Patrick Hernandez, Nancy Huston, Alexandre Jardin, Pierre Judet de La Combe, Michèle Kahn, Nelly Kaprièlian, Robert Kéchichian, Arsinée Khandjian, Elie Kleiman, Richard Labévière, Alexandra Lapierre, Camille Laurens, Pascal Légitimus, Gilles Lellouche, Claude Lelouch, Jean-Jacques Lemêtre, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Olivier Loustau, Mathieu Madénian, Benoît Magimel, Jean-Pierre Mahé, Christian Makarian, Vardan Mamikonian, Bruno Mantovani, Michel Marian, Gérard Meylan, Jacques-Alain Miller, Frédéric Mitterrand, Olivier Mongin, Eric Morain, Thibault de Montaigu, Vahram Muratyan, Lola Naymark, Jessica Nelson, Jacky Nercessian, Véronique Olmi, Michel Onfray, Erik Orsenna, Frédéric-Jacques Ossang, Benjamin Penamaria, Raphaël Personnaz, Michel Petrossian, Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, Gérard Pullicino, Michel Quint, Christophe Rauck, Jean Reno, Pierre Richard, Henri Roanne-Rosenblatt, Muriel Robin, Alexandre Romanès, Tatiana de Rosnay, Jean-Marie Rouart, Gérard Saillant, Boualem Sansal, Lévon Sayan, Jean Sévillia, Gilbert Sinoué, Astrid Siranossian, Zinedine Soualem, Nicolas Steil, Robinson Stévenin, Pierre-André Taguieff, Bertrand Tavernier, Yves Ternon, Alain Terzian, Sylvain Tesson, Marc Tigrane, Ara Toranian, Valérie Toranian, Rosalba Torres, Philippe Torreton, Thierry Vendome, Marie Vermillard, Marin de Viry, Charles Villeneuve, Philippe Welsh, Ysmahane Yaqini, Tigrane Yégavian, Benoît Yvert, Corinne Zarzavadjian, Pierre Ziadé.


  • Pierre says:

    You’re absolutely right – though in the list, there is the phenomenal cellist Astrig Siranossian (her 1st name being misspelled as “Astrid”).

  • V.Lind says:

    I see at least one Turkish and one Russian name in your list. Whatever their current citizenship, loyalties die hard. But the others — perhaps they were not asked.

    I signed an important Canadian petition only this morning. But if I had not been specifically invited to participate in the campaign (on a matter of urgency) I would not have known about it.

    Everyone knows about Nagorno-Karabakh. But not everyone may know about this petition.

  • CLarrieu says:

    Fail to see why your rant should be specifically illustrated with a Emmanuelle Haïm picture…?

  • Nijinsky says:

    For the love of….

    I notice not only is there a pic of a woman, but many are mentioned as musicians that need to take a side in wars mostly thanks to white males.

    And if they were all forced to be drafted, anyone not taking sides being made out to be illegal, then we’d have women’s liberation for real and world peace…

    • Sharon says:

      In the early days of the feminist movement it was closely associated with the pacifist movement, and many feminist leaders, such as Jane Addams, were active in both movements. Part of the reason given by feminists for giving women the vote was that giving women the vote would end wars because women would never agree to have their sons participate to be killed.

      Unfortunately it did not turn out that way.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    Alain Altinoglu is actually on the first line of the list…

    The names on the list do highlight a fact which would someday deserve a series of features on its own: the huge contribution to French culture brought in by immigrants and children of immigrants from the erstwhile Eastern Empires. Armenian names feature, naturally, in quite considerable numbers. But many others who know from their own experience what it means to belong to a persecuted minority are showing their solidarity.

    As for classical artists being advised by their agents not to take sides: I’ve met Natalie Dessay and Emmanuelle Haïm, to name but two, and followed their public appearances closely. Anyone trying to silence them for the sake of their careers would only ensure that they paint their opinion on the roofs in bright colours and broad strokes, and have it broadcast for good measure. Classical artists don’t come much more outspoken than Natalie.

    • Occamsrazor says:

      I have sizable amounts of both Turkish and Greek bloods in me among other ethnicities, also I have both Armenian and Azeri friends. I came from Soviet Union and in spite of being much better informed about the peoples of that area than most Westerners, I refuse to even try to form an opinion for my strictly private use about the current situation. I know the common mentality of these nations which makes the probability of peace nearly impossible not only among any of these nations but even among individuals. Here is an old Soviet joke that I tell my friends to put an end to discussions similar to the one we’re having. It’s called “A Diary of a Caucasus Boy”. Day 1: I’m home alone and I’m bored. Day 2: My neighbors chicken ran into our backyard. Day 3: My dad killed the neighbors chicken. Day 4: The neighbors killed my dad. Day 5: I set the neighbors house on fire. Day 6: The neighbors set my house on fire. Day 7: I set the entire village on fire. Day 8: I’m home alone and I’m bored.

  • Reomondo says:

    Dear Mr Lebrecht,
    I would just like to point out that Alain Altinoglu is quite obviously the third person on the list of the signing artists that you posted and should therefore not appear among the musicians whose absence on that list you question.

  • Pedro says:

    Altinoglu is on the list.

  • SMH says:

    I guess the Azeris who were displaced in the previous conflict don’t count?

    • againstbigotry says:

      By that logic, the Armenians displaced in the previous conflict don’t count either. Don’t forget that the original conflict erupted because the region of Nagorno-Karabakh democratically elected to secede from the Soviet Union and become an autonomous state (which Azerbaijan and Armenia would soon follow suit on), an action that prompted Azerbaijan to lead horrendous pogroms against the tens of thousands of Armenians in their territories. You want to pretend that Azerbaijan will do anything for the people who have been displaced? Azerbaijan is run by a family of brutal dictators who embezzled oil money for decades, rather than assisted such displaced people.

      • Occamsrazor says:

        Againstbigotry, only 16% of the current Istanbul population is purely Turkish, the rest are largely either Greek , Armenian or both. PS. Have you ever met an actual Azeri or a Turk? Do you suppose such people could be ruled by someone like Macron? Are you old enough to drive or purchase cigarettes?

  • jb says:

    The title is misleading. Jacques Attali, Boris Cyrulnik, Michel Onfray, Pascal Bruckner, Michel Drucker, Alain Ducasse, for example, are note artists.

  • Nijinsky says:

    I wonder if Martha Argerich, already hiding in a corner from all of the doting, wasn’t supposed to not take sides when offering to play Akiko’s piano.

    As if these war games, and trying to force people to chose a side ever ended up anything but perpetuation. Japan then, from many sources, wasn’t bombed with nuclear weapons to get them to surrender, it was already known that they would, but it would scare the Russians and then we get the cold war. The Russians who had been an ally against the Germans, the Germans who at first had been supported by England and the banking community, part of the “logic” being that it was thought Germany would then attack Russia, and prevent a German-Russian alliance that would put an end to the hegemony of the English empire. Another reason Hitler could gain power was all the debt Germany owed from WW1, a war which lead to the Dadaist maintaining that anarchy had more harmony in it than all the rules leading to that war, and from there on apparently as well. And then Zionism had a whole other angle to it , or at least people that called themselves Zionists.

    Who exactly is in alliance with who, and how many allies keep on going sour, and what’s next!?

    Saddam Hussein was supposed to be an ally against Iran, Osama Bin Laden was hired by the CIA to mess around in Afghanistan, before he turned the other direction, and this is after the incidents with Mossadegh with project Ajax. Saddam and Osama again being those whom people should chose sides regarding, although it’s the same side against them that put them in place to begin with, or hired them, or made alliance with them before things went sour.

    Perhaps mere “musicians” have something better to do….

    • Sharon says:

      It is true. When you have a lot of arms around, they may act as a deterrent for a while but eventually people are going to use them.
      As a psychiatric nurse I know that a staff member is most likely to be assaulted by a psychiatric patient to whom the staff member is close. Eventually the patient will make a request to which the staff person has to say no; the patient feels betrayed, and that’s when people get hurt.

      Perhaps a similar thing happens with countries. Yes we have deliberately deceptive pacts such as Germany made with Russia before WWII. In other cases, we have agreements and then when one side believes that the other side of the agreement is not doing what that other side should do the ally turns against its former ally or allies.

    • Occamsrazor says:

      Nijinsky, I recently read on some Russian forums a long post about the Karabakh situation that was so deep, so conspiratorial which in most cases only delights me, that I forwarded it to a few friends to briefly scan it the same way as I did. It had to be a leak from intelligence community, it was like some 3 dimensional chess. I honestly cannot spend time on things like this even though it could offer insight into the geopolitical entities manipulating the 2 hot-blooded nations that are being played like a piano. If they cannot drink Armenian brandy and eat Azeri shish-kebab together the way they did in Soviet times than they deserve to get fucked by entities whose brains contain more details than those of stray cats and dogs fighting around a dumpster. Very few of them are capable of analyzing the sanitation workers around them. As for Russians who supposedly abandoned their Armenian ally, the current Armenian leader is a Russophobic puppet who betrayed Russia a long time ago. If Armenians like having such government then they better stop whining and march to Istanbul themselves. Inshalla!

  • David Saliamonas says:

    David Haroutunian is an excellent violinist in one of the radio orchestras. Also, Alain Duault writes about classical music and is a famous personality on radio and television.

  • Novagerio says:

    Well, Alain Altinoglu is on the list.
    Glad to see multi-cultural Jean Reno on the list too.

  • Occamsrazor says:

    Taking sides in this situation is irresponsible. If these people cannot relearn how to live in peace the way they did in Soviet times, they both should either unite with Russia again which seems to be the only way to achieve peace, or they should be supplied with as much weaponry as possible so they can slaughter every last one of each other. Most thinking people are sick of the whole thing and are preoccupied with matters that are affecting the entire world now. If these 2 nations choose to act like savages during this crucial time, they should at least have the decency of not distracting the rest of humanity and manipulating great military powers into joining their madness.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      When one is as ill-informed about the situation as you appear to be, Occamsrazor, you would do better to keep your comments to yourself. This is an issue of Turkish genocide against Armenians, nothing less. It’s like saying to the Jews of central Europe in 1941, “you should re-learn how to live in peace like you did during Kaiser Wilhelm’s era.”

      • Occamsrazor says:

        Doktor, genocide is a serious word that sadly has been used way too many times lately, causing a noticeable devaluation. How many people need to be killed to justify the legal definition of genocide? I admit that I don’t know the number and I’m saddened by every death regardless of nationality. Since you choose to take the Armenian side, I’d like to remind you that this conflict was started in the late 80s by Armenians. Before that both nations lived happily side by side, had daily dinners together and often intermarried. Both of these countries are parts of the Soviet Union and I find it tragic but expectable that every post-Soviet “country” is in some kind of a death spiral. The idea that these stillborn artificial political entities that had never once achieved a statehood before the breakup of the Soviet Union, have the prospects based in reality of a long time survival, is remote. Being Russian I consider such conflicts to be civil wars between amputated chunks of a very sizable whole that was the only power able to keep such wars in the realm of the unthinkable.

        • againstbigotry says:

          If you want to go by the UN’s definition of genocide, then one could easily argue Azerbaijan has committed three offenses that the UN would consider genocide: 1. killing members of the group (Azerbaijani soldiers are proudly and publicly seen doing this and posting videos to social media, in addition to Aliyev’s overt attempts to wage ‘war’ rather than continue working on a diplomatic solution); 2. causing serious bodily or mental harm to the group (Aliyev’s forces shelled civilian structures in major cities, NOT military targets, for 45 days STRAIGHT, displacing over 100,000 people in six weeks, possibly permanently); 3. deliberately inflicting group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction (once again, Azerbaijan deliberately targeted civilian structures first and foremost in the middle of a pandemic, making life impossible for the indigenous civilian population. Moreover, the region’s infrastructure is completely wrecked, making it difficult for civilians to live in a freezing region without proper access to heat, electricity, heck even running water). As a Russian, you should know better than to claim Armenia started this conflict. Armenians in this region that Stalin demarcated for Azerbaijan to appease the nascent state of Turkey were always the predominant group of people here, and they voted democratically to secede from the Soviet Union, just as Azerbaijan and Armenia would follow suit. How did Azerbaijan respond? Pogroms against Armenians throughout its country. I don’t disagree that Russia is the only power that seems capable of instilling peace, but that’s almost exclusively because Turkish people in the region have been leading a century+ campaign to eradicate Armenians from this region in an attempt to create a pan-Turkish block.

          • Occamsrazor says:

            Let me clarify my position. Having half of my ancestors from that area including both Greeks and Turks I’ve known a long time ago that while any conflict among these nations has the usual political and financial reasons that feed any war, the main cause which makes them nearly incurable is within spiritual and cultural realm. To make it short, neither of these nations is capable of forgiveness because in most cases their brains lack the part where it resides in others. Trying to remedy a terminal condition by signing some inane art- related petitions reeks of either ignorance or intentional pouring gas on fire. The only way to even hope for a solution is to prohibit mentioning anything related to their bloody history and current situations for the next 50 years under penalty of law. Russians and Germans often have beers together but most of these are genetically different. I would know because I’m one of them, for better or for worse.

          • Occamsrazor says:

            Againstbigotry, one often overlooks the crucial biological fact that Armenians, Azeris, Greeks, Turks and the many people of the wider area including North Africa and Sicily are completely and irreversibly genetically mixed. My mentioning the irreversible aspect of it is probably giving a premature joy of a chance to ridicule me on accounts of being dumb enough to have stated the obvious. It is obvious to you and me but unfortunately it’s not to too many people of that area. People discussing classical music in general have higher than average IQ even though it’s often not instantly obvious. Art people often have little understanding of matters unrelated to their field and their lack of information leads them to both underestimate and overestimate things. The average people from that region view even a hint of considering anything smells like compromise and short of a total victory to be a loss of honor and instantaneous spiritual suicide. Let me give you a simplified analogy. Imagine 2 brown people both of whom are equally 50% Black and White, engaged in a knife fight inside a phone booth, each mad enough to be hoping to be the one walking out of it alive, one calling the other the N-word and the other calling the former a cracker. Wouldn’t it be obvious to any sane bystander that there are only 2 scenarios that make sense, either hope that cops with guns are there in time before they are both dead or let them enjoy it to the inevitable end. What would you call a bystander stopping to offer comments, cheering one of the patients and offering to hire an international string quartet to help things? It’s easy for me to be genuinely neutral due to my unusual ancestry and I both understand and pity people of simpler genetics and identities who cannot see both sides. But I consider people with no ancestral or cultural connection to that area offering opinions, taking sides and especially offering inane help like playing some Schubert and signing petitions to be at least equally insane to the 2 brown dudes in the fictional phone booth. The breakup of the Soviet Union has caused so much suffering already and changed the power balance in such a way that the consequences will be unfolding until the end of the solar system. I’d like to ask my music colleagues of European descent to refrain from trying to cure spiritual melanomas by scratching them, you only make things worse and hasten the day when the big boys will have to clean up the mess you helped to create. Thankfully your influence is microscopic in scope. You fail realize this because you reflexively jump at any opportunity to grandstand and seeing even the short term consequences of your actions is out of the realm of your capabilities. Don’t worry, these consequences don’t amount to anything more than statistical noise.

          • Occamsrazor says:

            Againstbigotry, if your ancestry and culture is connected to Armenia or Greece which are joined at the hip, I do understand your position because I have to endure this every few days coming from my drunk Armenian friends, the only difference from yours being composed of about 70% swear words. The only advice I give them is to look again in the mirror and explain to me how exactly I can tell them from Turks so I don’t accidentally do to them what they are promising to do to Turks, that being in the hypothetical case of me getting radicalized by their screams and running into them after dark. If on the other hand you are European or of some other ancestry not related to the region, please realize that the situation is profoundly none of your business. You can show me miles of the history and statistics coming from either side. Both versions of reality are diametrically opposite and and an honest attempt to discover the truth would require many lifetimes of living in that area which most likely wouldn’t be enough. I choose to not give a rat’s about both of them. This strategy of mine has saved me lots of time and kept me among the intellectually honest. Obviously it can never bring me a single penny or the joy of grandstanding on some stage for an hour or two of performing some classical music wrapped in good intentions which often lead to the expected destination.