Vladimir Jurowsky: I haven’t had to conduct for President Putin’s birthday

Vladimir Jurowsky: I haven’t had to conduct for President Putin’s birthday


norman lebrecht

October 24, 2021

Bavarian Opera’s new general music director has been explaining in a forthright Munich interview his continuing role in his native country: ‘Let’s put it this way: I haven’t had to conduct on Vladimir Putin’s birthday and I never will.’

So what does he make of Valery Gergiev, who jumps to Putin’s bidding?

‘We must not forget that Valery Gergiev and Vladimir Putin have a personal friendship that dates back decades. I don’t even want to judge that now, but a human friendship is a human friendship. I have nothing in common with the regime. I know a couple of representatives. I never met Mr Putin personally. But I’ve already met three ministers of culture, for example. The first called me to Moscow in 2011. And I already knew the current minister, Olga Lyubimova, when she was still in diapers because our families were friends. Her father is a very famous professor of theatre history and he was friends with my parents. Olga was born in 1981. So I really knew her as a baby. And no one suspected that at some point she will become Minister of Culture. She also helped me to implement my plan that I would leave the orchestra, but Vasily Petrenko would come instead of me and that the orchestra would not “fall into the wrong hands”, so to speak. I am very grateful for that. But my connection to the Russian state goes no further than that…’

Read on here.


  • Mary Ann says:

    Maestro Jurowski might have an unfortunate lapse of memory. In 2011, he seemed to be happy and proud to conduct in St Petersburg a Gala dedicated to the 50th anniversary of friendship between St Petersburg and Dresden – an official event held in presence of Mr Putin, for whom both cities are very deer. A birthday party of sorts, imho

    • Amos says:

      I fail to see how the concert you mention was in any way a celebration of VP. Furthermore, it is impossible to fail to recognize that mentioning “playing for his birthday” is meant to evoke memories of Germany in the nsdap period and if that isn’t a repudiation I’m not sure what would be.

  • Rob says:

    Who’d want to celebrate getting older anyway? How depressing.

  • Herr Doktor says:

    He seems to be beloved in London, and has gotten great reviews here and there, but in the 2 concerts I heard him conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra, I found his interpretations to be lackluster. It may be that he simply did not have chemistry with the orchestra and thus we did not hear in Boston what he’s capable of doing elsewhere, but I would be in no rush to hear another Vladimir Jurowski concert. I was particularly disappointed with his interpretation of Shostakovich’s Symphony #4, which I had expected would be a compelling performance. It wasn’t. It lacked the long line and lived in the moment, didn’t tell a story, was overall uninvolving, and did not leave this listener shattered and exhausted by the end as it can in other hands. I was mostly bored. Hopefully he has a great tenure in Munich and takes his place as one of the world’s leading conductors as his reviews would have one believe. But I did not hear it in Boston. Maybe he will one day fill the shoes of the wonderful Bernard Haitink. We sure need someone to!

    • Barry says:

      His first Philadelphia concert may have been the best conductor debut I’ve seen in my many years of going to P.O. concerts. And it caused a major sensation among the local critics and orchestra fans, making him a favorite to eventually become music director. But I felt his subsequent appearances achieved mixed results.

    • Amos says:

      On the other hand, Lawrence Johnson in The Classical Review indicated that”Jurowski scored an unqualified success in his debut with the BSO”.

      • Herr Doktor says:

        Everyone’s entitled to his own opinion. I just read LJ’s review, and just fully disagree with it. Compared to the astonishing live performance we heard in Boston of this same work conducted by Sir Mark Elder, Jurowski was out of his league. Even Andris Nelsons’ performance (later) was better, had greater sustained intensity, and was more coherent than Jurowski’s. But Maestro Elder gave a truly great performance that still rings in my ears.

        In comparison, it seemed during Jurowski’s performance as if he was incapable of thinking of one climax relative to another, and so each event was isolated and disconnected from a larger narrative. At the right moment, the visceral thrills were thrilling. But they lacked a sense of context in this performance. I remember thinking, how is it that one conductor can make the same piece sound so different from another conductor? In Jurowski’s case, across the board, it was not better. Ironically, I had a friend who caught a different performance in the cycle than I did, and while he does not know Shostakovich’s 4th like I do, he said to me he was also disappointed with the performance because (in his words) their seemed to be a lack of proportions to it all. I believe those are just different words for saying the same thing I said.

        Jurowski may well be a wonderful conductor and get great results from the LPO, Munich, etc. However, his concerts in Boston were disappointments and at a minimum he was not able to make memorable music with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the 2 concerts I heard.

        • Amos says:

          how is it that one conductor can make the same piece sound so different from another conductor? Because you perceive it differently?

          • Joel Kemelhor says:

            It is not simply the listener’s perception. Try recordings of the music of Delius — first some by Sir Thomas Beecham and then the same led by others….. There are certain conductors who seem to “channel” certain composers, irrespective of shifting musicological trends.

          • Amos says:

            Comparing Beecham’s recordings of Delius with Mark Elder’s performance of a Shostakovich symphony is, imo, an interpretative stretch of epic proportions.

          • Herr Doktor says:

            Amos, are you Vladimir Jurowsky’s publicist?

          • Jeanne says:

            Or, rather, Mr Jurowski himself, perhaps…)

          • Amos says:

            Caught! Commenting on music and public health was a not so clever ruse.

          • Amos says:

            No; are you the last word on his work?

          • Herr Doktor says:

            I’m the last word on MY OPINION of his music-making. And that’s what I was sharing. MY opinion.

            Just to help you, I’ll disclose that I was not speaking for the late Bernard Haitink.

    • Rustier spoon says:

      No chance of him ever filling Bernard Haitink’s shoes….