Paavo Järvi: Why I am in Moscow

Paavo Järvi: Why I am in Moscow


norman lebrecht

February 28, 2022

The conductor has issued this statement on his continued presence in Putin’s capital, working with a Russian national orchestra:

Being an Estonian it is obvious that an attack on Ukraine, an independent country, hits very close to home.

I arrived in Moscow last week when few believed that Putin would actually start a war. Suspicion and distrust of our large neighbour has unfortunately proven to be well founded.

Many friends have urged that I should cancel the concert and leave Russia immediately…and to be honest that was my first instinct.

After thinking about this deeply I have come to the conclusion that this would be defeatist, dishonest and disloyal to the wonderful young musicians of the Russian Youth Orchestra, who feel confused, torn and shocked, and who are against this war as much as I am.

With this concert I wanted to leave my young colleagues with some love and hope for humanity…Love and hope that might remain in their hearts and memories for the years, maybe decades, of isolation that is surely to come.

These young people should not and cannot be punished for the barbaric actions of their government. I cannot turn my back on my young colleagues: musicians are all brothers and sisters.

As a human being and as an Estonian, I hate what is going on in Ukraine. I resolutely condemn the actions of Russian government and Putin!

I conducted this concert in the Spirit of defiance and deep solidarity with these young artists and in the Spirit of support and solidarity of the Ukrainian people!


  • Andrey says:

    Bad decision, Paavo. I hope you’ll think better next time.

  • Luckily not a celebrity says:

    Lol. Very Stalinist times. Speak out against and denounce, or have your career cancelled!
    But props to Mr.Jarvi, a class-act

    • Min sook says:

      I think it’s a chance for frustrated “musicians,” who have only produced noise instead of art, to chop down famous Russians musicians or any musicians that they feel may be pro-Putin since they are unable to compete legitimately through musical ability. Quite disgusting really.

    • Heril Steemøen says:

      Another way to not get cancelled is to not actively take part in events related to the invading regime. Both ways work, perhaps equally well.

  • christopher storey says:

    Soft in the head

  • alexis piantedoux says:

    It’s ok…but: the Youth Orchestra of Russia is organized by the Moscow Philharmonic society, and the General Director is among the people that signed a letter of support to Putin’s invasion of Crimea on 2014…but Järvi isn’t the only artist playing in Moscow Philharmonic, all the best western musicians of our time played there, should we ask them to make public amends? should we ask them to explain why they accept to play in Russia? should they give back to Russia their well paid fees? all this is a non sense

    • Heril Steemøen says:

      How could to once have played there possibly be taken as endorsement of or complicity in Russia’s actions made later? This concert in contrast was held after the beginning of the invasion.

    • John Borstlap says:

      A nonsensical comment. The players have no responsibility for either the actions of that director or the crimes of their government.

  • IP says:

    I have seen a videotaped concert of Sonya Yoncheva with this orchestra, and most of them, boys and girls, look pretty enough to be photo models. Nothing like the mad glint in the eyes of their … leader?

  • music lover says:

    Bravo,Paavo!!!!Sensible decision….It´s so easy to make self gloryfying,self righteous comments from the comfort of a safe home here…..To all those commentators here…Have you seen the clips from the huge demonstrations against the war in Moscow? Thousands of people were on the streets!!!!Paavo did the right thing….Music against oppression,dictatorship and violence….right in the lion´s den…..And those youngsters are our hope for the future.Those who played in the concert will never forget it and never support a butcher like Putin again!!!!!

  • Come on now... says:

    I think that is a very bold and courageous statement to put out while physically in Russia, especially given what has been happening to those vocal against the war.

    To look at it in black and white terms, either you punish the Russian people by removing their access to cultural imports, or you do as Järvi is purporting, and show them that a future together is the best way forward.

    My (possibly naïve) view of the war and Putin’s regime is that it will be resolved through internal pressures from those with influence over him and large scale unrest from the Russian people. If that is the case, perhaps cultural sanctions is the better way forward.

    I think Järvi is doing things for the right reasons, I just don’t think it will have as much impact as he thinks.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It’s not about impact, but about giving-off an important signal. And ideas and symbols have more effect in the long run than violence and suppression.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      I’d like to see that small, botoxed, geriatric thug taken behind a building and shot – just like that Romanian thug and his wife decades ago.

  • JBB says:

    Sadly Jarvi’s decision was blinkered . Think what a statement it would have been to walk away. He could learn from the life of Rafael Kubelik whose principled refusal to collaborate cost him much.

  • Shaun says:

    “Think what a statement it would have been to walk away.”

    No statement of any significant consequence whatsoever unless you are like so many in the fishbowl of the classical music world who continually overestimate their importance on the world stage.

    He’s a musician and he has made the right decision which is to make music that gives balm and hope.

  • Gustavo says:

    It seems that in today’s climate it doesn’t make a scrap of difference what you actually do or say, or from what background you come – you will be criticised rather than supported.

    And I mean Paavo, not Putin.

    Now Paavo, who is an American Estonian, is not following the current cancel culture and is standing up for the Russian youth, which is in fact THE WORLD’S ONLY HOPE.

    Western war mongering, i.e. delivering weapons to the East, is currently getting more applause than any independent artist like Paavo who has explicitly condemned the actions of the Russian government (see above).

    OK, lean back and watch how Valery’s and Anna’s careers disintegrate, but it is absolutely not appropriate to say anything negative about Paavo’s courageous personal decision to provide some hope to young musicians who are probably feeling rather distressed and ashamed about their nation’s current actions.

    • Ellingtonia says:

      Western war mongering………….forgive me here but I was under the impression that Putin had ordered his troops to the Ukraine border, called the Ukrainian president and other politicians Nazis, not realising of course the President is Jewish, launched an unprovoked attack on Ukraine, targeted civilians with SAM missiles and threatened Ukraine with nuclear weaponry and now we learn his death squad goons are after the Ukrainian president to execute him, along with named others who Putin sees as a threat. In my part of the world there is a phrase that we apply to people like yourself….”if he had a brain he would be dangerous”.

      • Gustavo says:

        And I am under the impression that weapons made in Germany are being sent to Ukraine to kill Russians.

        The motif is fear.

        I don’t know from which part of the world you are, but “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

  • Rob says:

    There’s a recent selfie with Alec Baldwin on Jarvi’s instagram.

  • Una says:

    He’s gone there to work not take part in a war. Doesn’t prove he’s pro-Putin or pro anything, but or anti Ukraine, except to get on to fulfil his contract and get on with his career in making music – not lose it by noisey musicians trying to cut them down.

  • BP says:

    Many Russians, especially young artists, are opposed to this war. Järvi is right that being conducted by a proud citizen of a free Estonia will provide hope and encouragement to them.

  • guest- says:

    “After thinking about this deeply I have come to the conclusion that this would be defeatist, dishonest and disloyal to the wonderful young musicians of the Russian Youth Orchestra, who feel confused, torn and shocked, and who are against this war as much as I am.”

    I am well prepared to believe him sincere, but I am also aware performing arts have long turned into “business” or “industry”, and rely on “service” (Thank you DiDonato.) He has a contract, and that contract may have a disadvantageous clause if he simply fails to show up. As to the confused and shocked youths of the orchestra, are they all orphans? Don’t they have parents, relatives, friends to turn to for advice, people with whom they are longer acquainted with than a conductor showing up for an international gig?

    “These young people should not and cannot be punished for the barbaric actions of their government.”

    Canceling a performance because the conductor isn’t showing up isn’t punishment, it’s a fact of life. Not to mention that the performance may be salvaged if replacement is found it time. During the pandemic opera houses and concert halls have become expert at finding replacements. Moscow is a big city.

  • Affreux Jojo says:

    So glad all cancelling now had been as diligent and courageous during obamas wars pulling from carnegie hall, not flying us airlines…

    • PFmus says:

      George W Bush’s wars – which he should not have begun and at wguch he failed to prevail, leaving Obama stuck with them, with no Republican support to deal with either the wars or the world financial crash W Bush handed out – all of which you know quite well… but you have an agenda.

  • Roland says:

    Well said! Bravo, Paavo Järvi!!

  • Ron Vogel says:

    If I’m not mistaken this was also Furtwangler’s excuse for conducting in Nazi Germany all those years.

    • music lover says:

      No.You are indeed mistaken.There was no youth orchestra in Nazi Germany,with young people opposing the actions of Hitler.

  • Peter says:

    A great man. A true humanitarian.

    The others of you can think of how similar you are to Russians flocking around in 1937 asking questions like “So, comrade. Ivanov – why did you meet with comrade Antonov last week – don’t you know it’s strongly comdemned by the Party”…

    … and realizing you are not an inch better.

  • Monsoon says:

    Way to throw the poor, confused kids under the bus to defend your spinelessness.

    • Peter says:

      In difficult times, they got to play beautiful music under a great conductor. Järvi has given these young people a great gift. It’s impossible to understand how you can say what you say.

      • Monsoon says:

        Russian kids don’t get to play music with Jarvi — boo-hoo.

        Think about what the kids in Ukraine are going through.

  • Daniel NYC says:

    Let’s hope that if Maestro Jarvi serious about this statement he will share within Russia and read to the Russian Youth Orchestra out loud and include it in program notes of the concert and disseminated to the audience. Otherwise it is just rhetoric for Western audiences and worthless.

    • Gustavo says:

      If the Russian youths still have access to the internet (this site) they could help make Paavo’s nonviolent resistance through music go viral.

    • SVM says:

      No. Keep politics out of the concert hall until *after* the advertised programme has been performed in full. Then, the conductor may have earned the right to address the orchestra and the audience if he/she wishes (and audience members have the option to leave without missing the music for which they paid to hear), but not before. And under no circumstances should a conductor claim to speak on behalf of an orchestra when discussing politics unless the players have voted unanimously (in a secret ballot) to support the statement.

      And by the way, has “Daniel NYC” called for conductors visiting New York to condemn the innumerable war crimes of the American government? Or does “Daniel NYC” take the view that the USA/NATO is allowed to bomb other countries with impunity?

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Why don’t some of you just read Solzhenitsyn to learn something about the Russian history and the Russian mindset. The more things change the more they remain the same.

    A friend of mine is a Polish doctor who lived for the first 40 years of his life under the Soviets in that country. He could tell you lots about the Russian mentality.

  • J Barcelo says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the program had Tchaikovsky’s “Little Russian” symphony and some Gliere and Lyatoshinsky?

  • Well done, maestro ! Respect! I salute you. Hope to see you in Verbier or Sion some day. Greetings from Switzerland. Make music, not war.