Why Valery Gergiev will be no great loss

Why Valery Gergiev will be no great loss


norman lebrecht

February 27, 2022

I first heard of Valery Gergiev around 1990 when a friend called from Covent Garden to say he’d heard nothing like this conductor since Wilhelm Furtwängler. I soon saw what he meant – the fluttery gestures, the unaccountable atmosphere, the intensity of the playing.

I got to know Valery quite well over the next two decades. His made it his mission to save the Mariinsky Theatre by earning hard currency on western tours and exporting its homegrown stars to Vienna, London and the Met. Many of his performances in those years were unforgettable, but the signs of decay soon set in.

At the Rotterdam Philharmonic, his first overseas job, I saw players shouting at him for coming late to rehearsal, or missing it altogether. At the London Symphony Orchestra, his next post, he kept three phones on his stand in rehearsal and answered them when he felt like it, in complete disrespect to the music and musicians.

In Munich, he took the money and flew home by private jet. When Putin called, he dropped everything and flew to his flag.

Saddest of all, the Mariinsky talent bank dried up. The last major export was Anna Netrebko, and that was quarter of a century ago.

So if Gergiev vanishes from the world scene now as a result of his Putin complicity, the loss will not be greatly felt. Gergiev is 68 years old, out of energy and with little left to give. A year or two back in St Petersburg might help him regenerate. But his backing for the brutal Russian colonisation of Chechnya, Syria and Ukraine will live with him forever.

This morning he was fired by his western agency, Felsner Artists.

He will not be missed.




  • IP says:

    Well, of course. One phone for Putin, one for Roldugin, one for family. Not one too many.

    • Patrick says:

      LSO players were divided regarding Gergiev. Some unforgettable concerts, but also unforgettable rehearsals sitting in silence, waiting for him to turn up as his plane was delayed due to snow! A maverick. Forever dancing to Putins tune and (toothpick) beat.

  • The first time I saw VG was at Matthew Epstein’s 50th birthday party…the fame of VG was beginning to catch on at that time, and when he appeared, my heart skipped a beat.

  • A.L. says:

    In agreement. Will not be missed in any way, shape or form. Ta Ta, Valery.

  • Felix says:

    Putin and his sycophants will be forever damned by history. Those who denounce him will be heroes, and rightly so. I hope that the Russian people realize that history is repeating itself, and act soon.

  • John Borstlap says:

    The gradual erosion of a talent is always a sad story. Mostly it is character flaws: the personality being too weak to carry the weight of the talent. I spoke with Gergiev in 2008 in Rotterdam, in his hotel, we had a discussion about new music: he was not impressed by the quack pieces he got from contemporary Russian composers who went through their catch-up phase of sixties modernism, the ‘liberation’ they had missed at the time, with scores with pages so big that you needed two people to turn them. He did not strike me as a strong personality.

    • music lover says:

      But of course he was impressed by the works of the supreme works of a certain Dutch master whose works make Arensky sound modernist…….

    • Nick says:

      To have a “gradual erosion of talent” one should have one. VG NEVER had any talent, except a$$ kissing the government. He was always a fake and that is why he needed to be “covered” by political power. And he knows that very well.
      Ciao, VG – a political pawn and a nobody.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        What does THAT say about classical music enthusiasts and critics? That they’re slaves to the latest fashion? Who’d have thought??!!!

      • John Borstlap says:

        It is definitely not true that G had no talent, that is a ridiculous statement. If in the mood, he could give mesmerizing concerts in his early days.

      • The Ghost of Karlos Cleiber says:

        Now come on – Gergiev has his (many, much-discussed) faults, but I don’t think you can seriously say he doesn’t have a serious talent. I don’t like much of what he does, but on the occasions I’ve seen him get it right have been blown away.

        • Rick says:

          I heard Gergiev conduct Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Symphony , which is a work I truly love, but it was bad. I mean really bad. On the other hand, he was stunningly good with Mahler’s music. His performances of Tchaikovski’s 4th, 5th, and 6th symphonies were superb. So I think it is safe to say he has talent.

  • Peter says:

    Putin strips people he doesn’t like of work and income.

    How are we any better than him, now?

    • Gragniani says:

      Hmmm, let’ s see: We didn’t invade Ukraine, Georgia or firebomb Grozny until nothing was left but a smoking pile of rubble- and that’ s just for starters, troll!

      • Peter says:

        I’m sorry. I forgot that people on the Internet misunderstand on purpose. I can make it easier for you:

        Putin strips people he don’t like for work and money. Now, many “liberals” applaud people in the West who do the same. Are we better than Putin in this respect? You can’t say it’s ok to behave bad because somebody else behaves worse.

        • TubaMinimum says:

          The rest of the world has collectively decided to sanction the daylights out of Russia and in particular make uncomfortable the oligarchs who support Putin and have his ear more than the average Russian by going after their assets. Gergiev might not be an oligarch, but he is in that circle. Why are we sanctioning, boycotting, and trying to impact people’s money? Because it seems like a better option to show our displeasure than nuclear war.

          I don’t consider it behaving badly at all no matter what terms you try to reframe it.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Yes, true, but he does make a point about authoritarian cancel culture which is unavoidable; whether you like it or not that SJW culture is all part of the same continuum. Totalitarianism. I’m hoping folks have finally drawn the dots.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh, please for God’s sake. Have we learned nothing? Wake up.

      People like you are complicit with the deaths of many innocent people because you don’t know how to prioritize. What do I mean? Here’s another example: In the US, we were on a path toward energy independence from Russia, but then we decided to pull out of the Keystone XL pipeline in the name of climate change. Seems great, but we import somewhere around 200,000 barrels per day of crude from the murderous thugs in Russia. Failure to prioritize.

      What’s your solution to end the war? Or are you open to letting Russia take Ukraine, displacing millions. We’re only a few days into this. You think Putin’s going to stop there? See that little Russian country Kaliningrad between Lithuania and Poland? Pretty sure those pesky NATO Baltic states in between are going to be a big problem. He’s obviously not going to stop there.

      War is hell. Better to strip people of work and income than to murder them. There’s a difference.

      Then again, maybe you missed the thermobaric bombs being deployed on the outskirts of civilian areas of the country last night.

      But sure, go ahead and whine about people being cancelled. I’m not a fan of the US cancel culture and woke nonsense, but if there ever was a time for people to be cancelled, this is it.

      By the way, given the close relationships of Gergiev and Netrebko, what makes you think they aren’t able to or wouldn’t be able to gather intelligence for the hand that feeds them?

      • Jules says:

        You really need to get your facts straight on that Keystone XL pipeline. It was to transport tar sands, a product that is highly corrosive and extremely expensive to refine. The vast majority of what was to be refined was for export only. The US would have used very little of it. And as for Russian oil? It is about 7% of our imports.

        • Tim says:

          Actually, you’re the one who needs to get his facts straight.

          Keystone XL would have transported bitumen, a product that is upgraded and extracted from bituminous sand, leaving water, clay and sand. When combined with a diluent for transport, the resulting dilbit is no more corrosive or toxic than any other heavy oil. The dilbit was to be refined in heavy oil refineries on the US Gulf Coast. Those refineries were designed and configured to refine heavy oil, which they used to obtain from Venezuela, before the incompetence and corruption of that country’s regime killed its oil industry. They are incapable of refining the light oil which makes up virtually all of the domestic oil production in the United States.

          Wanna know what’s really extremely expensive? Building new refineries because you need to refine more petroleum even though your existing heavy oil refineries are lying idle due to a lack of suitable feedstock.

          You’re right that much of the oil would have been exported, but since the products of oil – things gasoline, diesel, plastics, pharmaceuticals and many other things we can’t live without – are largely fungible, they would have relieved much of the supply pressure causing prices to skyrocket.

          But don’t let reality get in the way of what Daryl Hannah told you.

    • guest says:

      @Peter Poor Gergiev, my heart bleeds for his misfortunes. Stripped of work and income. Oh wait, he has made a huge fortune, which was possible only with Putin’s backing who got him the necessary media exposure. Oh wait, he is the general director of Mariinsky, Russia’s flagship arts institution, who puts up at least 200 performances per season, which he can all conduct if he likes. Looks like he won’t have to scour the garbage dumps for food, after all. By the way, this was the reason for the cancellations, his positions with the Mariinsky. Cultural sanctions against Russian institutions and persons leading these institutions. Nobody would have cared very much about him, had he been a mere conductor.

      • Peter says:

        Try to look a little bit past the size of Gergiev’s bank account.

        Do you think it’s a shitty thing when Putin refuses people to work and get paid because he doesn’t like their views? (think Pussy Riot.)

        Now, if you think this is a shitty thing, why do you accept this tool being used against Gergiev and others?

        • guest says:

          Your first comment was about the terrible injustice of being stripped of work and _income_. After I enlightened you about Gergiev’s income, you quietly dropped that part of your comment but continue to pontificate about the injustice of being stripped of work. I wish you had read my first reply to you more carefully. Gergiev has more work at Mariinsky than he can manage. It is a blessing he was relieved of his Western obligations because he never had time for them as he should have. I also wish you would understand the meaning of the expressions “economic sanctions” and “cultural sanctions imposed on institutions and leaders of institutions after failed political negotiations”, but I’m not going to educate you on SD. Apparently all you understand is the expression “shitty thing”, of which you are terribly fond of. Each its own.

        • Nick K says:

          Pussy Riot wasn’t invading any countries and quashing democracy. Maybe that might be the difference?

        • Barry Guerrero says:

          Seriously? . . . you can’t reason your question out for yourself? Please take a logic class.

        • Laura Aikin says:

          You can’t ignore the context or draw false equivalencies. The world is looking down the barrel at nuclear threats. Pussy Riot was warning us about this eventuality. Denouncements are pouring in. If those who have publicly stood at the side of the man responsible for this terror don’t clearly and willingly add their voices, which would have the most effect, then they expose themselves as being in agreement and deserve every sanction.

    • Giustizia says:

      Exactly. Cancel culture is a global trend. When it comes to human rights, Trudeau is every bit as bad as is the twitter mob. Your thumbs down votes only show how comfortable people can be with fascism in all its forms and how uncomfortable they can be faced with truth. “Wear” those thumbs down with pride and honor.

    • Emil says:

      Yeah, that’s what Putin is known for: employment policy.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    Bravo, Norman, thank you for posting this. The enablers of tyrants and murderous despots as well as those who sup with the devil must be called out. Artists do not need to make common cause with whose to wish their fellow human beings harm. Our cultural life in the West is not dependent on Valerij Gergiev. Let us ban him from all our concert venues. He will soon get the message.

  • Listen says:

    Oh, he’ll be missed, particularly by those with ears. Stop letting your ideology affect your esthetic judgement, if there is any.

    • John kelly says:

      I have ears and I heard….live…Kondrashin and Svetlanov. Gergiev isnt in the same class at all.

      • Herbie G says:

        … and could we include Mravinsky, John K? His Tchaikovsky 5th DGG), for example, is incandescent! I guess that’s what you get when any player knows that if he makes the slightest slip he’ll be in the Gulag the next morning. Seriously though, I think he was a genius.

        • John Kelly says:

          Yes, Mravinsky was a great conductor but I never heard him live. I don’t believe players in the Leningrad Phil were sent to the gulag however. Gregor Tassie wrote a very good biography of Mravinsky and another of Kondrashin.

          • Nydo says:

            One problem with your logic; Svetlanov and Kondrashin have been dead for decades; Gergiev has conducted some wonderful concerts, and he is still alive. The number of conductors that I can say that about is a bit limited at the moment. He may not be Svetlanov or Kondrashin, but he will still be missed to some extent.

        • And how about Celibedache

  • Frank says:

    I got to know his conducting in Rotterdam concerts, where he ws invariably late, hasty and distracted. Yes, usually there was a flash in the pan at some point in the concert, but it was all pretty predictable and so I stopped attending those Gergiev concerts.
    I remember a Prokofiev Festival in Rotterdam where everything Gergiev did was a horrifying mess and Kurt Sanderling conducted a transcendent, stunning 6th symphony with great personal modesty.
    I also remember a Gergiev / Maryinsky show with some (great) dancers, doing, among other things, Apollon Musagete, which doesn’t have any loud brass parts to climax upon, so no cigar. VG hardly knew how to beat his way out of that score.

    • Nydo says:

      I heard him conduct a very dynamic, characterful Shostakovich 4 with Rotterdam in NYC in 2006. The next day, he conducted 5 and 15 in rather boring, tentative performances. I later found out that he had conducted four with them recently, hadn’t conducted 5 in a long time, and sent his assistant to the rehearsal for 5.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    First saw him conducting at RFH and then Lohengrin at the old Garden, both in early 90’s, wonderful.

    I’ve just read that the Zagreb Orchestra(?) has cancelled two pieces by Tchaikovsky in their upcoming concert what a bunch of idiots!

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Maybe you haven’t been paying attention, but Tchaikovsky just last night endorsed Putin’s attack on Ukraine.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well, I agree somewhat foolhardy, but can you blame them? What’s happening is an atrocity. A lot of this is going to be driven by the business. Orchestras still need to cover costs, and (sadly) what you see with the cancellation of Putin’s puppets is as much a business decision as a denunciation. But I’d argue that’s one net positive of the free market.

      The public doesn’t necessarily know the ins and outs of Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, etc. and their personal stories. Good opportunity to educate them. But there’s going to be a lot of anti-Russian sentiment, and there should be given the realities unleashed in the last few days.

      To the MD’s out there, on a practical level I’d recommend that you save your all-Russian programs for another time, or do the work to explain and put them in context.

      Anyway, think about the big picture here. We don’t play the Rite of Spring for holiday concerts. MD’s love to program anniversary programs, birthday celebrations of Beethoven, etc. Timing is everything. Don’t wear a red dress to a funeral.

    • BrianB says:

      I agree, Elizabeth, utterly stupid. Even during WW2 we didn’t stop playing German music, not even Wagner, because of Hitler. We did during WW1 so I guess we’ve regressed to the infantile level o 1914/18.

      • SC says:

        Yes and the Germans banned Elgar during WW1. A century later he is still something of a rarity in Germany/Austria as a result.

  • Rob Keeley says:

    A contemptible man maybe, but a good musician. The two are not incompatible. I wouldn’t want to be without his recordings of Russian operas
    (Musorgsky, Rimsky, Chaik, Prokofiev)I wouldn’t be without.

  • Una says:

    Not sure we should be judging artistic people like this verging on hate, and stripping musicians of work and income, hence ticking boxes to be seen to be doing something virtuous. Otherwise we just become replicas of Putin. An eye for an eye etc has never been my version of trying to be a Christianity. Other versions and faiths available.

    • J says:

      I’d worry about the income and work of artists who were bullied out by Putin and Gergiev, not those of Gergiev.

    • Monsoon says:

      Tell that to the civilians Gergiev’s buddy is killing.

    • guest says:

      “Stripping musicians of work and income”? Are you Peter’s alter ego, Una? Gergiev has made a fortune thanks to Putin’s support, and he is the head of Mariinsky, where he can conduct over 200 performances per season if he so chooses. Not exactly a pauper.
      Sanctions against Russia aren’t hate. Is freezing of Russian bank assets in UK hate too, in your opinion?

      • Veda says:

        This comment, I think, isn’t about Gergiev’s income. Make no mistake, for better or worse, he is the “father” of Mariinsky. Thousands of people are employed because of him. This will have lots of repercussions down the line, yet to be seen. It is correct, of course, that in the current situation, he has to lose positions and tours, but lots of artists will lose, too.

        • guest says:

          @Veda Half of Una’s comment is about Gergiev’s income. The other half is virtue-signaling.

          To the first half: I object to misrepresentation though manipulative choice of words that conjure up a certain mental image. To say someone was stripped of work and income suggests someone living in penury, which is definitively not Gergiev’s case. Firstly, he is not without of work, he can get more work at Mariinsky than he can manage, if he chooses to cast himself as conductor in half of Mariinsky’s performances per season, not to mention his administrative work as general director. I object to the verb “stripped”, it suggests defencelessness and lack of choices. Not Gergiev’s case, he was given choices. That he might have felt the other choice unsafe, given Putin’s penchant for punishing people, is hardly La Scala’s, Munich’s, and the other opera houses’ fault, it is solely Gergiev’s fault for courting Putin openly for decades, and linking his fortunes to his. For the record, I don’t believe Gergiev ever considered denouncing Putin, not so much out of fear but because he shares his views, and because his (Gergiev’s) situation in Russia is a very attractive one. Yes, Gergiev has lost positions and tours in the West, but given how hopelessly overbooked and overworked he was, I am not very moved by his loss of well paid jobs for which he was putting in poor quality work. Secondly, he is rolling on money, work or no work.

          No, he isn’t the “father” of the Mariinsky. The Mariinsky is more than 150 years old. Regardless of its name, there has always been a Mariinsky, always employing hundreds of people. Gergiev is its current general director, and has greatly contributed to the company’s current international image. This was made possible with help of generous state subsidies approved by Putin, for whom the two big Russian theaters are propaganda instruments. Nothing new in a totalitarian system. As long as Gergiev sides with Putin, and Putin is in charge, there will be no repercussions for the people employed at the Mariinsky – with the exception of the repercussions instigated by Gergiev himself, if he feels like.

          To the other half of Una’s comment: Meh. False equivalencies meant to create a feeling of guilt. Likewise manipulative, and unoriginal tactics to boot.

  • James Weiss says:

    From the very first time I saw him conduct – with that little toothpick of a baton and that Rasputin persona – I was repelled. Outside of Russian repertory he had nothing to offer. Good riddance.

    • Nik says:

      I’m not sure he’s any better in Russian repertory.
      I’m still baffled by the complete hash he made of Khovanshchina at La Scala in 2019. Admittedly it’s a challenging work with a large orchestra, multiple choruses and a huge cast so requires meticulous rehearsal and strong direction from the podium. It fell apart at every opportunity and there was no hint of the genius of this stunning music.

  • frank says:

    Several years back, I sat in the front row at the Met directly behind Gergiev who was conducting a marvelous Otello ( Domingo and maybe Vaness, I believe.) Gergiev looked unwashed and the smell of his body odor was overwhelming. The lady sitting next to me finally pulled out a perfume atomizer and sprayed us all to cover up the smell. So I can report this his conducting truly stinks. .

  • Ya what says:

    Face it, if Wagner were alive today, god forbid the kind of reaction against him.

    And Britten would be in jail for child molestation.

  • Piano Lover says:

    Well said-good riddance!

  • M McAlpine says:

    Blacklisting artists like this in a time of war and conflict makes a point that we do not approve of the murderer Putin or those who support his murderous regime. We are not prosecuting these people, merely not employing them non the west.

  • John Thompson says:

    Also we mustn’t forget Vadim Repin, who has left no doubt about where his allegiance lies. Whilst it would be a grave mistake to lump all Russian artists together as some people are doing, it is important that a few should be called out for what they are.

  • JB says:

    Rotterdam an “overseas job” for Gergiev ? What sea lies between Russia and the Netherlands ? Otherwise great post!

  • Ms.Melody says:

    I would like to to state from the start that I do not like Gergiev either as a musician or as a person. He is often late for performances and his conducting has been uneven or ,at times, downright embarrassing. He shows no respect for either his audience or his colleagues.
    I dislike Netrebko, the most overrated soprano of our times, for her sloppy singing even more and will never pay again to hear her.
    I also unequivocally oppose any country invading another country and starting a war which may spread further and cause death and suffering.
    However, I read with endless amusement the comments full of righteous demands about how they must oppose Putin.
    Does anybody here have any idea what it is like to live in a totalitarian state and openly oppose the head of this state?
    It means career suicide and exile at best and imprisonment or death at worst. Do not project our Western rights and freedoms, which by the way, we are slowly loosing, to how things are done in Russia. In two generations little has changed in that country. More people speak English and European goods are more available to the select few, but the essence of a police , totalitarian state has not gone away. There is no freedom of speech there and the consequences of speaking out are dire. You must know what happened to artists and journalists and writers who did.
    Not everyone can be a hero. How many in WPO or BPO openly opposed Hitler? How many prominent artists and writers refused to join the Communist Party during Stalin’s years?
    Learn your history before you condemn and cancel someone.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Wrong comparison. There are lots of russian performers without ties to their government.

    • James Weiss says:

      You can’t possibly be serious. It’s one thing to not speak out, it’s quite another to give comfort, succor, and support to a murderous regime. This is what Gergiev and Netrebko have done for years. Btw, Netrebko lives in Austria not Russia. She is an Austrian citizen. She is free to speak out. She doesn’t. Gergiev has left — at a moment’s notice — to conduct personally whenever Putin snaps his fingers. He is wealthy and free. You should learn the history of these people. They are free. They are not ordinary Russian citizens — who, btw, are in the streets protesting risking arrest — they are free by virtue of their wealth. Instead, the risk nothing and support these murderous thugs. Shame on them and shame on you for supporting them.

      • Ms.Melody says:

        I am NOT supporting them, merely giving another perspective. And, FYI just because they are rich, does not make them free and safe, and their families even less. Putin and his killers can reach their opponents anywhere.

        • James Weiss says:

          It’s not “another” perspective, it’s the wrong one. They could have simply remained silent. They didn’t have to wrap themselves in the separatist flag and accept riches from Putin. They could have followed the example of Kissin, Jurowski, Bychkov. They didn’t. They now stand condemned for their selfish choices. It is people like you who are blind. You can’t have it both ways.

        • guest says:

          @Ms.Melody I agree with you but for a small detail: Gergiev didn’t climb up the ladder against his will. Yes, Putin made him what he is today, but Gergiev has coveted the top position, and did what he had to do in order to get it. I concur it wouldn’t be safe for Gergiev to denounce Putin. The point is, he doesn’t want to. There is no reason for him to so, and I suspect no one really expected him to do so, the requests were pro forma, as means to an end. The end was cultural sanction. Everybody knew there were going to be sanctions, from economic to cultural.

          Gergiev’s fortunes have always been, and will always be with Putin. A victim he is not. He knows that even if he never returns to the West, he will still lead a very comfortable life in Russia, full of privilege, as the general director of Mariinsky, for as long as Putin’s fortunes hold, or Gergiev’s lifetime lasts, whichever ends first. No need, no inclination to be a hero.

      • Theo says:

        Honest question: Would your tune be a bit different if Gergiev were Jewish?

      • ABQ says:

        Netrebko kept her Russian citizenship- so she has dual citizenship

    • Me says:

      What you forget is that these “artists” can nowadays ( since 1990) distance themselves from Putin and conduct their careers in the west; but they are performing in the west for high wages and than run back home to Putin. It means they admire him and want to be around him. Otherwise they would perform in the west and visit their homeland quietly and privately, without beeing part of the propaganda machine there.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Totally agree with your comments about Netrebko being vastly over-rated!!

  • Amos says:

    I thought the conducting with a toothpick was meant as a joke until I saw the video. Not sure which was less informative the barely visible digit fluttering or the microscopic toothpick. Supposedly Strauss would occasionally look at his pocket watch while conducting when bored. The video I see of a recent Gergiev concert suggests he is either waiting for the check to clear or his limo to arrive.

  • Monsoon says:

    I’ve never gotten the appeal of Gergiev. I’ve heard him at the Met and Carnegie Hall, and own some of this recordings; performances are slick and efficient, but the interpretations seem superficial with some heavy handed interpretational touches that have no point except him trying to be different.

    Between his infamously busy conducting schedule and visually unique conducting style, he’s succeeded in shrouding himself in mystique.

    • John kelly says:

      He’s shrouded himself in something more commonly found on the floor of the cowshed

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Along with millions of other people, I’m sure.

        • guest says:

          @Sue But those millions of other people you are so sure they share this “quirk” are not conducting large orchestra in opera houses and concert halls, in front of hundreds, or thousands of people. I’m sure the cows don’t mind, but coworkers do. Unless you belong yourself to the “other millions”, try shrouding yourself in ____ before going into the office, and experience the “enthusiasm” of your coworkers.

  • J. Duparc says:

    I’m following Gergiev since the late eighties, mostly in Rotterdam. Can hardly imagine not hearing him anymore. (that is to expect). Has enriched my musical life enormously.

  • John kelly says:

    No he will not be missed and he will be remembered as an apparatchik akin to Oswald Kabasta and Abendroth. Moreover he has become an extraordinarily BORING conductor. And he was never a Furtwangler on the podium that’s for sure. Should never be mentioned in the same sentence.

  • Jeff M Hall says:

    Agree 100%. we saw him booed in Bayreuth a few years ago, because he was over booked and under rehearsed.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    I met Maestro G in Paris when I was performing there in the early 1990s at the Theatre des Champs Elysees for a concert conducted by Philippe Entremont. An older friend from Germany who was a fan of many classical artists brought me backstage to meet VG. He was very kind, and knew about me. That was all. Rule of thumb – never mix business with pleasure. No politics, no religion, just music. The legendary teacher Adele Marcus at Juilliard once said, ‘Those who go in through the back door often go out the same way, dear.’ What she meant was, in simple terms, be genuine, be authentic, and be yourself and climb the ladder on your own merits without other influences. She was right. Aside from the issues facing the arts, the whole thing is very scary and just very sad that people are losing life because of greed. That is not a political statement, just reality.

    • Kaz says:

      Thank you for informing us that you played there. Otherwise we would have never known.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      “What she meant was, in simple terms, be genuine, be authentic, and be yourself and climb the ladder on your own merits without other influences.”

      You can’t be talking about the modern world of affirmative action and quotas can you??!!!

      • Amos says:

        He’s talking about humanity and dignity. Please look up each term and write 3 sentences using each to demonstrate that the concepts are now firmly in your grasp.

  • Ana says:

    People, what is happening to you? You, “music lovers”? What is more dictatorial that to forbid someone to think what he or she wants and to freely express his or her thoughts? What about the brutal NATO bombing of Yugoslavia? Who dare to forget it?

    • Bill says:

      Do tell us some more details about NATO bombing Yugoslavia. Do you remember why the NATO bombing took place? Hint: the Yugoslavians were killing thousands of their neighbors.

    • guest says:

      Ana, I could as well ask what is happening to you. Are you living in an alternate universe? Nobody in the West forbids Gergiev to think what he wants, or to freely express himself. So far, he hasn’t expressed himself at all, nor will he, in my opinion. Gergiev’s fortunes have always been, and will always be with Putin. We know this, he knows we know, no need for him to tell us _again_. Should he have a change of heart, he is still free to express himself, but it wouldn’t be safe. Do you believe Putin takes kindly to defectors? So you see, Ana, the only one who might prevent Gergiev from freely expressing himself is Putin. But don’t worry, Gergiev hasn’t had a change of heart.

      No idea what the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia has to do with Gergiev freely expressing himself, but I have a hunch that it doesn’t matter.

  • Geiger. says:

    Armchair musicians today. Ask the musicians who actually work with Gergiev in Munich, London, Rotterdam…

  • Paul Johnson says:

    Hear hear Norman!

  • Whatever says:

    “With freedom comes responsibility”. This quote is usually attributed to Reagan, but the principle of it dates back to Oliver Wendell Holmes with his famous comment stating that freedom of speech does not extend to the right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. The point I’m making is there are times when speech can be interpreted as aiding and abetting the enemy (a form of treason) and that is happening right now with certain Republicans in our Congress, a certain Fox News anchor who is obviously on the Kremlin payroll, and the (thankfully) ex-President, also directly or indirectly as good as on the Kremlin payroll. Their statements are being displayed on Russian media to reinforce Putin’s moves, to imply support from Americans. That would be considered treason in all earlier eras but somehow memories are short. How ironic is it that McCarthyism was a Republican movement that “cancelled” so many people and their careers? How the tables have turned, and some of you are freaking out with cancel-culture rants? I certainly agree there’s a lot of nonsense there which is way overdone, but doesn’t every movement (even the most justified) initially swing to extreme sides of the pendulum on the part of the over-zealous? That doesn’t negate the validity of the movement.
    Putin’s artist puppets have self-aggrandized by long serving as his mouthpieces and sycophants, and are certainly enriched by the system above and beyond any earnings performing outside of Russia. As others point out here, there are plenty of successful Russian artists who are not in this category, live elsewhere and don’t seem to be in danger of receiving doses of Novochok. Speaking of which, to those misguided enough to conflate albeit very lamentable US foreign policy mistakes of the past with this situation, no one has bothered to mention Putin’s hobby of extinguishing his enemies with that lovely substance. Please stop making such absurd comparisons.
    And remember, while so many are delving into history, some other worthy and apropos quotes:
    “Silence is complicity” and “All that is necessary for the triumphs of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    • John Kelly says:

      Very good commentary. I particularly agree about your comments regarding the Party of Ronald Reagan which seems now to be the party of Lord Haw Haw. (google it people)

      • Whatever says:

        Thank you John; Yes, for those who don’t want to google it, Lord Haw Haw was the nickname given to William Joyce, a British traitor who broadcast Nazi propaganda to the UK from Germany during WWII. I’m aghast at what all these Haw-Haw’s have been getting away with the last several years. As someone commented in another thread on this website, the Rosenberg’s were electrocuted less deservedly compared to what’s going on here right now.

  • Adrian says:

    I’ve heard stories of him flying from town to town, orchestra to orchestra, on a daily basis, playing, taking the money and running. I suppose Putin was in turn Gergiev’s conductor and he was playing Putin’s tune.

  • Harpist says:

    years back we heard him with the VPO with Tchaikovsky 4, 5 and 6. They were very good.
    Today I hear the VPO with Yannick replacing humans it was phenomenal.

    Yeah, not going to be missed, his fluttering conducing movements were awful to watch as well.

  • Conductress says:

    Gergiev’s career is over. Vanessa Benelli Mosell is on the rise as a great conductor career is just beginning.

  • Eugene says:

    The non-Russian repertoire recordings he made with London and Munich are totally uninspiring. He can only do well with Mariinsky, so, adios.

  • ART says:

    A number of years ago when G seemed to be in style at the Met I attended an 11 am dress rehearsal of Parsifal which he was engaged to conduct. He was at least 10 minutes late to the podium after the Met house conductor had already started the overture. So asinine! He didn’t last long at the Met after that and I concluded good riddance. His conducting style was more than weird—diametrically different than Levine’s where one need not interpret his wrist, finger or elbow motion.

    • John Kelly says:

      I attended one of those Parsifal performances (we were used to Levine’s which were generally superb). My God. How BORING Gergiev was. A player in the Met Orchestra told me that everything was fine “as long as you didn’t look at him for a cue or a beat.”

  • Anon says:

    You, Norm, will not be missed either.

    • guest says:

      Nor will you be missed, Anonymous. This is the default state of affairs, billions of people are missed only by their families and friends, and that’s okay.

  • C says:

    I watched Gergiev rehearse and perform Tannhäuser at Bayreuth and it was the most despicable display of arrogance and incompetence I have ever seen from a so-called conductor in my life. He showed up more than an hour late for the first rehearsal, which his assistant had started conducting instead — when he finally arrived over an hour later, he simply had the orchestra start from the beginning and ran through the piece, again. No apology, and no rehearsing. Gergiev clearly had not bothered to learn the score — tempo changes would come, the orchestra would play what they knew the music to be, and Gergiev would only then adapt his ridiculous flittering fingers to seem as if he were conducting in a new tempo. The mystique of his incomprehensible technique, which fascinated me as a teenager falling in love with classical music, is in fact nothing more than a mask for his non-existent musical competence. There was no improvement over the course of the rehearsal period, and even at the first performance, singers and orchestra were wildly apart. The reviews, for once, correctly identified Gergiev as the weak link in an otherwise excellent production and cast. I had previously heard fantastic concerts with Gergiev at the helm, but having seen him “work” at Bayreuth, I am led to conclude that the impressive energy of those concerts was exclusively the result of the brilliance of the players, and nothing to do with the charlatan on the podium. Whether or not one supports cancel culture, Gergiev has no place on the world’s leading stages and never has. The worldwide success of this hack made me cynical about the classical music industry long before the current crisis. His disappearance from Western stages will be a blessing for us all.

  • Tony says:

    I had the opportunity to interview VG once at the LSO – I prepared hard and well, submitted my questions in advance as requested to his PR and accepted their requests for subtle changes of wording. I arrived as requested and was eventually shown into the room. He barely glanced at me, no pleasantries or greeting at all, then as I started my recorder, one of his mobiles rang. His first and only words to me, “Go, we’re done.” (Potentially the shortest non interview I have ever done. Even Eliot Gardener, somewhat terse, softened when I asked about the cows on his farm.) The door opened and his personal security ushered me out without a word. In the early days their was something about him and his performances – when he could be bothered – but for the last 25 years, since his Covent Garden Lohengrin after which I saw him urinating in the back alley of the Coliseum, I have tried to avoid him whenever possible. He is no loss.

  • alexis piantedoux says:

    Gergev was able to restore the Tchaikovsky competition, being able to discover and help extraordinary talent ( Trifonov, Debargue…first name on my mind ) I agree he was very unprofessional especially with the orchestra’s musicians

    • Tony says:

      Debargue…. don’t make me laugh. Do you have ears? The man bashes the keys and cheapens every true artist with his very existence. That guy belongs with Currentzis and Gergiev in a special circle of hell.

      My message to every person who supports Putin: what you sow, or have sown over the years, you will reap. The treasures of Ukraine – artistic, physical, etc – are many and glorious. God’s speed and benediction to those who are fighting to protect what is rightfully and democratically theirs.

  • Viva la musica says:

    You started with Putin, now Tchaikovsky is cancelled in several countries. Hello???!!!
    You people are nothing more than spectators in an arena, declaring yourself music lovers and musicologists, at the expense of loosing art treasure, only because you read news more than playing music.

  • Chris K. says:

    Just because you have musical talent doesn’t mean you’re a humanist, or have character, or a moral compass. For Gergiev it has always been about personal self-promotion and to hell with humanity. Let’s remember pas examples: Karajan or Wagner, among others. Every little bit helps and I am so glad action is finally being taken now. Bravo for the courage of the musical community to stand up for basic human rights. Indeed, Gergiev will not be missed.

  • MuddyBoots says:

    Trolls, your arguments about employment are ridiculous.
    First, it is not the mission of concert houses in Europe and the Americas to keep particular musicians or conductors employed. If some Putin ally isn’t employed another artist–who was shut out before– will be.
    Second, this is war, not some dispute about “free speech” , because invading another country is not speech.
    Third, the Russians (Gergiev prominently) sanctioned so far are those who allied themselves with, and great benefited greatly (and unfairly to Russian musicians who toady less) from their close ties to Putin, and have been used by Putin as a symbol of Russian prominence and influence. Given Putin’s war, it is entirely fair to ask them to renounce Putin’s invasion and their part in polishing the image of Putin’s dictatorship. If these western institutions can employ a Russian who didn’t contribute to Putin’s regime that would be OK. Find some who didn’t pose with violent separatists and their flag after the invasion of a neighboring country, , who didn’t perform for Russian troops during their despicable actions in Syria, or every other place where Putin wanted to cement his claim.

  • Christophe Lacour says:

    Quite an appalling article. He is the best you can have today to direct large parts of the repertoire. Having attended 100+ concerts with him and a large number with other predominant directors, no one has the same level. At nearly the same level you have Salonen in some symphonic work and Jordan in Wagner (never heard Levin though). For the French and Russian repertoire, hands down the best.

  • John B says:

    Oddly enough and possibly off topic here… Every time in the last 30 years I’ve seen a photograph of the Maestro I’ve always thought, “boy, he looks like he needs a bath and a shave…” Apparently I wasn’t too far off with my visual impressions…And the lovely image of him micturating in an alley is just the icing on the cake…

  • Zachary Binx says:

    Oh, the toothpick guy. Yeah, he’s a joke. Definitely not a voice for music. I bet he’s too darn scared to speak out.

  • Olivier says:

    Have not been a great fan of Gergiev anytime, save a few opera recordings. But disgusted, though not really surprised by the way all these well being persons and institutions turn suddenly their back after having hardly sought for him all these years (I then asked myself why- money?) and apply to Gergiev and his ‘likes’ what they precisely criticize in Russia : ban, political bias and at least musical censorship. Revealing about a much hypocritical milieu.

  • Tom says:

    Typical west looking to impose their own form of freedom restriction. All who post here have problems in the head. It shows you can be kickedout of anything for standing up for your beliefs. You people are hypocrits

  • Susan S. says:

    He is incredibly stinky. Like a skunk run over by a car and decomposing on the road stinky. Brings tears to the eyes of the musicians up to 8 people away from him.

  • Nad says:

    It must have been really hard to offer such scathing criticism of someone you’ve got to know so very well over decades–even to the point of being on a first name basis! But he must be a terrible person if even someone so close to him sees nothing deeper than tabloid headlines. I haven’t followed his career that closely, to hear the demise in quality, but the recordings I’ve heard were astoundingly brilliant.

  • Jackson says:

    End of 2022, approaching 2023. Do you and the others feel like absolute tits yet?