Maestro behaving badly? Famed conductor seeks to evict a Russian artist

Maestro behaving badly? Famed conductor seeks to evict a Russian artist


norman lebrecht

February 13, 2022

A storm has broken out in St Petersburg over the conductor Teodor Currentzis’s attempt to take over the workshop space of one of his neighbours, the painter Valery Gridnev.

Gridnev was given the apartment 20 years ago by the Union of Artists. Currentzis has secured an order from the city council to evict him.

Friends and art lovers are up in arms. The media argue that the space has unique northern light, essential to Gridnev’s work. Gridnev says he was not contacted by Currentzis ot the city before being served with an eviction order.

Here’s a post by the graphic artist Zinaida Kurbatova:
‘The situation is unfair and sad, we ask for help. Famous conductor Teodor Currentzis bought an apartment in a mosaic house on Bolshoya Zelenina, 28. Now the maestro apparently wants to buy out the entire floor. In connection with this, the committee for culture proposes to evacuate the workshop of my friend, a wonderful artist-painter Valery Gridnev, which is located on this floor. The city administration asks to help Currentzis get this creative workshop (document attached). It’s an empty room… Valery received this workshop from the Union of Artists 20 years ago, invested much money in the renovation. Valery is a man of not very good health, having survived several heart surgeries.’


  • John Borstlap says:

    The story reveals the character of this particular conductor, and the nature of Russian state management of the arts.

  • Bone says:

    The gov’t giveth; the gov’t take the away.

  • RW2013 says:

    Back to Perm where he belongs.

  • HugoPreuß says:

    I am not a fan of the almost automatic Currentzis bashing on this site, but this is not a question of music making, but of character. And it does not throw a good light, Northern or otherwise, on Maestro Currentzis.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Forgive my ignorance but why would a conductor want a studio?

    • sonicsinfonia says:

      Make his apartment larger – he wants the entire floor. The studio is only a room space.

    • RW2013 says:

      To practice his posing.

      • John Borstlap says:

        My fy on the wall tells me that extra space is for visitors to gradualy get used to the perfume of the conductor; it will be sprayed on the walls in lower doses than on himself so that the shock won’t be as bad as an immediate confrontation. It happens regularly that visitors faint on arrival, so an extra space would reduce the health risks.

        Another fly had another explanation: the space is for parking his ego when he goes to bed.

  • Simpson says:

    He wants to have the whole floor in the building, as reported in the press there. He bought an apartment in the building and wanted to kick out that artist from the adjacent studio. TK doesn’t need the studio, but, as reported, he asked the governor of St. Petersburg to kick out the artist so TK can have even more personal space. According to the reports, the artist was given two weeks to get out for the “lord” to take his space. Why doesn’t TK try to pull this trick do in Athens?

  • M2N2K says:

    Perhaps he is not completely fluent in Cyrillic alphabet and simply misread the name of his neighbor, relishing the possibility of annoying another conductor who lives and rules in that same city with the same first name as the artist and similar last name too.

  • Simpson says:

    According to the letter of the Council of Culture of St. Petersburg (posted online), TC directly asked the Governor of St. Petersburg A. Beglov “to assist in giving TC a studio at [address]”. It follows from that letter that TC knew that the studio was occupied by an artist and personally asked the governor “to assist” in his “obtaining” that studio. It is important to understand that such artists studios are “given” by the Council of Culture to artists to work there as they are more spacious and can accommodate whatever local artists need for their work. So, as follows from the posted letter, TC was not going to buy the studio, he asked the governor to “assist” in essentially kicking out the artist and ‘giving’ the space to TC. Anyone familiar with how the feudal system works there knows that whatever the governor tells the city Council to do, the Council complies.
    This seems to be low, as TC is known to be generously sponsored by Russian Sberbank and Russian gas billionaire Mikhelson (for example, his V-A-C Foundation sponsored TC’s Don Giovanni in Salzburg last summer). Why just not buy what you want there?? Real estate prices in St. Pete now are not stellar. The artist TC tries to kick out has already had two heart attacks, as a friend’s FB post says. TC feels very comfortable in modern day Russia.

  • IP says:

    If his character is like his music making, the artist is in trouble.

  • Simpson says:

    Correction/Clarification: as reported by “Fontanka” in St. Petersburg, the studio is the property of the city of St. Petersburg and is included in the roster of studios that the city gives to various artists unions, which in turn provide the space to their members (artists, composers etc) as work space. The artist was in the studio since 1997 as a member of Visual Artists Union, and the practice has been that the agreement for the artist to be in the studio is automatically renewed. The Fontanka report says that TC became a member of the Composer’s Union in Russia and then as a union member asked St. Petersburg’s property committee to give him that studio (located on the same floor as his apartment). While the letter from the Council of Culture literally says “In compliance with the instruction of the Governor of St. Petersburg A. Beglov on TC’s request on the issue of facilitating giving him the artistic studio at [address], the Council of Culture will meet on [date] at [address]”, it is not 100% clear if TC’s request to facilitate giving him the studio was made only to the St. Petersburg property committee or also via other channels to the governor. I retract my earlier comment about TC personally asking the governor even though the Council letter reads that way to me. This whole thing is very odd. The studio is for an artist and was “distributed” by and under the “management” of the Visual Artists Union (VAU). The practice is, as reported, that if, say, an artist dies or somehow vacates the studio, the same VAU would give it to another artist union member. It is unlikely that a studio for a visual artist would be assigned to another union (Composers) to be given to a member of the Composers Union.

  • Insider says:

    Was anyone actually reading the entire article? I assume, not. In the end it says, if the artist won’t be happy with suggested options – to move to another studio as the rental agreement for the current has expired 2 years ago (and was not renewed for whatever reason), it says that TC won’t insist on taking over his studio. Probably, he has changed his mind due to that uproar. Also, I don’t believe TC is very much aware of the process at all – he does not bother with such things. Someone in his office in St.Petersburg might be just too enthusiastic and over-efficient.

    Still, I don’t know why would he need this studio at all – he has SO MUCH space in the huge Dom Radio where has absolute freedom and he actually does anything he wants there, really. Unless he wants arrange something for a strictly selected audience, while wearing his Graf Dracula pyjamas (he still could wear it in the Dom Radio – no one would say anything).

    • Simpson says:

      Odd that that the normally automatically renewed agreement with the artist was not automatically renewed this time, isn’t it? As reported, the artist kept working in the studio and wasn’t planning to move anywhere, wasn’t aware of this until served with an eviction order to get out in two weeks.

    • Frank Flambeau says:


  • Margaret Koscielny says:

    As in foreign affairs, so in the arts, the hegemony approach. Will bad behavior never end in the haves vs the have-nots?(As in: the rich and powerful over the modest and deserving.) Whatever happened to the lives of conductors emulating great musicians with great souls, such as Richard Burgin?

    As a fellow artist, I think this is appalling behavior.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      Very few reading this will know who Richard Burgin was, I’m afraid.

      • Maria says:

        Big fish in a very small pond!

      • José Bergher says:

        Richard Burgin (1892–1981). Polish-American violinist. Studied with Joseph Joachim in Berlin, and with Leopold Auer at the St. Petersburg Conservatory.
        Associate conductor (1942-1967) and concertmaster (1920-1962) of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

  • Dana Franchitto says:

    that conductor lacks integrity . the orchestra should call for his resignation and Valery should be be allowed to keep his space

  • John Kelly says:

    The words “Maestro” and “Currentzis” should never appear in the same sentence. Just listen to his Tchaikovsky Pathetique………

  • M2N2K says:

    Those of you who try to find logical/just/fair/legally sound and/or reasonably civilized explanation of Russian everyday life have probably never lived in Russia.

  • Thomas M. says:

    Currentzis is a piece of work. He had talent once, now he’s just alienating people with his stunts.