Will Carnegie Hall cancel Gergiev’s concert?

Will Carnegie Hall cancel Gergiev’s concert?


norman lebrecht

February 24, 2022

There is a strong moral and political case to bar Valery Gergiev from Carnegie Hall this weekend.

1 Gergiev is a close associate of President Putin, his representative and apologist. He has vociferously supported Putin’s policy on Ukraine and his wars of aggression elewhere.

2 Gergiev is a willing executioner of Putin’s policies, flying out to conduct on his battlefields.

3 Everyone is entitled to a political opinion, but in a war we must take sides. Gergiev represents Russian policy in Ukraine. The US has declared sanctions on Putin and his supporters. Gergiev should not be permitted to conduct on US soil.

4 Applause for Gergiev at Carnegie Hall will be received in Moscow as applause for Putin.

5 Gergiev represents a particular form of Russian cultural elitism. There is no place for that right now on a western stage.

6 The Vienna Philharmonic can easily replace him with another conductor. This is an unnecessary and deeply offensive concert.

7 Carnegie Hall needs to cancel before its non-oligarch donors rise in protest.

The picture shows Gergiev with Putin and defence minister Sergei Shoigu in 2018.

UPDATE: Carnegie drops Gergiev


  • Excellent summary, Norman.

    As an EU member, Austria (and the VPO as well) will certainly have to distance themselves now from any war-mongering amongst their conductors and soloists.

  • José Bergher says:

    Excellent article.

  • J says:

    Hope all concert halls will boycott him and his allies. Can’t believe that people can stomach this.

  • Jim says:

    Music brings people and cultures together more than it divides. Let’s hope real culture triumphs over cancel culture.

  • Anonymous Bosch says:

    As per the Wiener Staatsoper website:


    Gergiev is set to lead THREE different concerts at Carnegie Hall this weekend:


  • A.L. says:

    True. But there is also good reason for banning the Netrebkos from the Metropolitan and other European houses. Anna Netrebko, for long in Gergiev’s circle, has supported the separatists. As has Lisitsa. Much ado about the latter but not the former. Why that?

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      The default positions of many Americans these days is to ‘cancel’. It feeds into their dictatorial impulses.

      • True North says:

        Sue apparently still more offended by “cancel culture” than by the unfolding cataclysm in Ukraine. Wonder just what it would take for her to let go of her favorite bugbear for even a second.

  • Lost and found says:

    The orchestra is in a dangerous situation. They could damage their reputation in just one weekend for decades.

  • Matthias says:

    If Gergiev doesn’t break with the Putin regime now (which is unlikely), the VPO needs to dump him! You can’t “build bridges” with a conductor who supports burning them – time to show some spine! If not, Carnegie should dump the VPO.

  • Larry L. Lash says:


    I wrote to the press office of the Wiener Philharmoniker this morning asking for justification for the Gergiev concerts, with the subject line:

    „Die Philharmoniker und ihr heiteres Verhältnis zu Kriegstreibern“ / „The Philharmonic and their cheerful relationship with warmongers“

    Here is the response I received, in the original German, and in an English translation:

    „Lieber Larry Lash,

    „es liegt schon einige Jahre zurück, dass wir Kontakt hatten. Damals hatte ich Sie bei der Staatsoper getroffen und zu Franz Welser-Möst gebracht.

    „Ihre Headline ist ziemlich stark.

    „Mit Maestro Gergiev verbindet die Wiener Philharmoniker eine Jahrzehnte lange künstlerische Partnerschaft. Die steht absolut im Vordergrund.

    „Die Kultur darf nicht zum Spielball von politischen Auseinandersetzungen werden. Daher werden wir auch keine Kommentare zu politischen Themen in Bezug auf unsere Dirigenten oder Solisten abgeben. Die Musik hat für uns immer etwas Verbindendes und nichts Trennendes.

    „Wir verurteilen jede Art von Gewalt und Krieg,‘‘ sagt der Vorstand der Wiener Philharmoniker, Daniel Froschauer.

    „Mehr gibt es zu diesem Thema nicht zu sagen.

    „MlG, Claudia Kapsamer, Presse“

    “Dear Larry Lash,

    “It’s been a few years since we had contact. At that time I met you at the State Opera and took you to Franz Welser-Möst.

    “Your headline is pretty strong.

    “The Vienna Philharmonic has had an artistic partnership with Maestro Gergiev for decades. That is absolutely in the foreground.

    “Culture must not become the plaything of political disputes. Therefore we will not comment on political issues related to our conductors or soloists. For us, music always has something that connects us and not separates us.

    “‘We condemn any kind of violence and war,’ says the director of the Vienna Philharmonic, Daniel Froschauer.

    “There is nothing more to say on this subject.

    “MlG, Claudia Kapsamer, Press”

    • MacroV says:

      The Vienna Philharmonic saying they aren’t involved in politics is kind of rich.

      • The View from America says:

        That’s for darn sure …

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        We are on the brink of a 3rd world war and you make these infantile comments. As if the good people of the VPO have the slightest interest in or influence upon world affairs!! They know well enough never to lift their heads above the parapet – oh, except to admit the musicians YOU think should be playing there.

        Where are the street marches in the USA, “Ukraine matters”??

  • Jack says:

    Gergiev (who is nowhere on my list of favorite conductors) will go ahead and conduct these concerts.

    People will pay to attend.

    People who disapprove of him will not.

    The sun will rise the morning after.

  • Alexander says:

    all that situation had been planned long before it happened . and planned by those who are presiding in NYC, London, Moscow and some other places. I hope you, Norman, will have some friends who like classical music and the state of Israel soon …. and who work at MI number six simultaneously 😉 they will certainly be able to enlighten you on the subject 😉

  • Lothario Hunter says:

    I agree completely.

    Should Muti and the Ravenna Festival dissociate themselves from Gergiev, who has been their flagship guest conductor for years?



  • Kman says:

    I agree that the Vienna Phil should replace him.

    But would the same be expected of an American conductor during the Iraq invasion of 2003? While it’s not the same as the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, it was an unpopular action that lacked UN support. I’m not sure there were many conductors that were Bush cronies, but I suspect such a conductor would not receive the scorn Gergiev is receiving.

    • MacroV says:

      Find me an American conductor who very publicly supported Bush and the Iraq invasion, and then took his orchestra to conduct in places ravaged by U.S. military forces, and we can talk.

      Pretty lame “whatabout” you have there.

      • Kman says:

        Did Gergiev publicly support the Ukraine invasion?

        As an American, I can’t imagine an American conductor being held to this standard. If you can, that’s cool. Naturally, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but sorry that you can’t extrapolate.

        • V.Lind says:

          He publicly supported the invasion of Crimea. There is a precedent for his taking a position. He must do it now, because Europe may be about to be thrust into a war that NOBODY except Putin (and his yes-men) wants.

          And so must Carnegie Hall. America being a bit less autocratic than Italy, no mayor will order them to toss him. Government visa restrictions, if imposed, may make the choice for them. But basically, the managers at CH have to stand up to be counted.

          • Sue Sonata Form says:

            America “a bit less autocratic than Italy”? You’ve GOT to be joking. The well-spring of liberal fascism’s cancel culture and you can still say that with a straight face. GIVE US A BREAK!!

        • MacroV says:

          Of course they would be, though no American conductor would tie himself to the mast of an unhinged, despotic president. And no American conductor has the domestic or global profile that Gergiev does. Just look at what happened to virtually any U.S. entertainer who supported Trump; they’re playing the penny-slot lounge in Reno. He’s basically got just the D-list.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        I didn’t know Vienna had been ravaged by US military forces!! Oh, wait….

    • Jim C. says:

      It’s not the same as the current Russian invasion of Ukraine. You said it.

      And George Bush was not a Putin.

      • V.Lind says:

        Well, he invaded a country that had done nothing — NOTHING, all you Americans who still think Iraq had something to do with 9/11 — for personal reasons. Bush’s (and Cheney’s) culpability for what unfolded in Iraq is massive, and monstrous.

        And they got the international support they deserved. Very little. Tony Blair disgraced Britain by dragging them into it on the back of a litany of lies.

        But this invasion may well elicit a good deal of international support. Putin was well warned that this could be the forerunner to a major world war, which is what he seems to want. He has some messianic desire to return the former Soviet republics to Russian control, and the former Iron Curtain countries can’t be too sanguine about all this.

        There is not much point in making specious comparisons, though there is none, either, in trying to deny the truth of the recent past. Right now, there is an international crisis brewing, and people are going to have to step up. And that includes musicians.

  • Kim Jong Un says:

    How about banning all musical compositions by Isang Yun, who was the strong supporter of Kim Ilsung of North Korea with the same logic?

  • Dentist Toothstrami, DDS says:

    Just stop posting about him then, I dare you.

  • DG says:

    Serious question: do you think revoking all Western visas fo Gergiev, Matsuev, and anyone else publicly supporting Putin would do any good? Let them sit around in Russia for a while and go on concert tours of Perm and Vladivostok. Might that help eventually put some additional internal pressure on the regime?

    • Bill Ecker says:

      When support for Putin hits them in the pocketbook and their international bookings and prestige, then they likely will think twice. When all they can get are gigs in the Russian provinces, then they will rethink their posture. Putin is not worth their artistic legacies.

    • MacroV says:

      It won’t cause Putin to pull out, but we can’t let prominent Russians just go about their business as usual. Just like the Russian oligarchs in London need to have their assets frozen and their entitled kids kicked out of Eton and Oxbridge. There is a price to be paid for supporting and enabling the leader of a country who is a threat to global security.

    • Jim C. says:

      Norman is right. Any applause at Carnegie will be viewed as applause for Russia and Putin. And cheering?

      They’ll run it on a loop over there.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Only a fool could suggest musicians could ‘pressure’ a regime of autocrats which is the Russia of old. And only a nation with a docile, semi-incoherent President would suggest such a thing. Notice that for all Trump’s madness Putin wasn’t game to do anything at all while he was in office!! Thugs respond to other thugs. Take it to the bank.

      • True North says:

        If you think for one moment that Putin has a shred of respect for Trump, you’re loopy. At their joint television conferences, one could almost feel Putin’s bemused glee at being handed such a dumb, plump sack full of national secrets, ripe for the taking. Like a wolf who has been given a fat goose to babysit.

  • Gustavo says:

    They could bring in Neeme Järvi who lives in New York and who knows the full literature by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Rachmaninov off by heart.

  • Cancel culture says:

    Furtwängler was not Hitler, and Gergiev is not Putin. Supporting some-thing is not equivalent to being that thing. Cancel culture is ineffective and, even worse, it’s stupid.

    Let’s allow politicians to take care of the world stage, and artists to perform (no matter their political affiliation). Just turn the channel when the roles get reversed…

  • Monsoon says:

    The better question is if the Federal government will revoke his visa as part of its sanctions, and bar him from working in the United States.

    Will the EU do the same?

    Will Munich cancel his contract?

  • Bill Ecker says:

    Gergiev has been Putin’s artistic stooge for too many years. Carnegie Hall should absolutely cancel the concert, or demand he be replaced.

  • Birds of a Feather says:

    Putin’s closest ally in the western hemisphere is Nicholás Maduro. Venezuela hosts Russian military and signals intelligence assets on its territory, and Putin offers cash in exchange for mineral assets. When Juan Guaidó attempted to take his rightful place as interim president, Russia sent bombers to Venezuela in a public display of support.

    This has been the case for many years. Yet, while Gergiev has – quite rightly – been called to task for representing Putin’s agenda on the international stage, Gustavo Dudamel has earned the status of “The Dude” on this blog for literally wearing his dictator’s new national flag on his back at Carnegie Hall and around the world.

    These flag-bearing, regime-funded propaganda tours and recordings were managed by western agencies, promoters and record labels, all of whom made huge profits from them. We all know who they are. Yet, Dudamel has risen in LA, Paris and around the world to superstar status, and individual artists still use the name of a regime-owned propaganda program – El Sistema – to conduct their well-intentioned education projects. They simply refuse to join the dots, for fear of killing the fantasy. Journalists have been hired to launder Dudamel’s reputation so that he emerges not as the beneficiary he is, but as a Maduro victim, even an activist. Even Sir Simon Rattle expressed as much, in a moment of unfathomable naivety.

    The plain truth is that he served the regime, despite heavy and continuous criticism from other prominent Venezuelan artists, until long after protesters had been killed in the streets, and only after pressure came down from the board of the LA Phil to say something. He rode shotgun on the private jets of personal friends who destroyed his country, while simultaneously claiming music as the country’s salvation. His eventual public statement was banal, generic and far, far too late.

    The classical music industry, and this blog community, needs to examine how it chooses to set its moral compass. Dictatorship by any name is just as ruinous, as the 6 million Venezuelans in exile know only too well. Serving god and the devil at the same time is never possible, whether that applies to Gergiev, Dudamel or any other artist citizen. Please, be consistent in your righteous condemnation.

    • Jim C. says:

      Dudamel’s been gone from there for years. And he was actually from the Chavez era.

      Has Maduro invaded Mexico or something?

      • Birds of a Feather says:

        A. He was from both eras. He served Chavez and then Maduro. B. He only left in 2018, after carrying the dictator’s flag for well over a decade. C. Maduro does not have to invade another nation to qualify as a dictator, human rights abuser under investigation by the ICC, kleptocrat, cartel boss and Putin puppet. You seem to miss the point entirely.

      • Nydo says:

        Dudamel was also banned from that program recently after he criticized Maduro.

        • Birds of a Feather says:

          @Nydo. As alluded to above, Dudamel only “criticised” Maduro as late as 2018, nearly two decades into Venezuela’s wholesale destruction by his bosses in the regime. He did so because the board of the LA Phil pressurised him to do so. By then, a plane had flown over Disney Hall carrying an anti-Dudamel banner; the Dudamel-friendly LA Times had published a hugely compelling, long form interview by Mark Swed legitimising Gabriela Montero’s considered views on the collapse of Venezuela and the role of artists in regime propaganda; and many of the LA Phil’s jewish donors were unhappy at his support for an anti-semite dictator whose funeral was attended, not only by Dudamel, but by the then president of Iran, Ahmadinejad. The optics were not good for the LA Phil, it was that simple. Dudamel’s 2018 “statement” – from which politically aligned journalists then conjured Dudamel the victim – referred only to the restoration of democracy in generic and banal terms. It accused the regime of nothing, mentioned no names and did just enough to create the perception he was finally joining the right side, after so many years profiting from the regime’s largesse. But Venezuelans know otherwise. In reality, it was like criticising Hitler in April 1945.

          Over and out.

  • Montblanc says:

    The sensitive thing to do would be to have Gergiev and Matsuev replaced this weekend while issuing a statement that they will be welcomed back to Carnegie Hall in future seasons and acknowledge their long relationship with the hall. I don’t think they deserve to be banned from international stages but the timing is just horrible this week and Carnegie shouldn’t ignore it.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    Bravo, Norman. With you all the way.

  • Jim says:

    Everyone is judging Gergiev from an American/UK perspective, as if he has the freedom to say and do whatever he wants. The truth is that any Gergiev condemnation of the Putin regime would be not be tolerated. Therefore, he must choose between helping the people of his country, Russian musicians, culture, and his life vs futilely speaking out against something that is completely out of his control.

  • Artem Wahrhaftig says:

    ……a couple of questions for whoever wrote these 1….7 – or perhaps someone else can explain:

    “Gergiev represents a particular form of Russian cultural elitism” it says: what does it mean?

    Titles? Positions? Fees? Just curious.
    ‘Cause one could easily say exactly the same about any other conductor in demand.

    “Gergiev represents Russian policy in Ukraine”: how come? As an ambassador? As a Parliament member? As a minister or any other official? As a CEO of Mariinsky Opera House in Petersburg? Oh, this is where the the “Russian policy in Ukraine” is being defined? 🙂

    Whoever told you any particular person “represents” something as big and strong as State, Power, Policy – well, whoever did so, must have deceived you: it’s merely impossible. Quite the same about “identities”, “communities” etc.

    I do understand those who don’t like Gergiev and think he’s a “bad guy”: tastes differ.

    But – as a conductor he “represents” only himself. And is responsible only for himself. That’s it.

    So there is no point in threatening and “blackmailing” the Vienna Philharmonic with any consequences – they are quite right saying that they make music with the conductor they chose to make music.

    • guest says:

      “But – as a conductor he “represents” only himself. And is responsible only for himself. That’s it.”

      Perfectly correct, he stands only for himself. As a private person he has openly supported Putin and his politics regarding Ukraine. The Vienna Philharmonic openly supports a guy who openly supports Putin’s politics. Their right to make music with the conductor they chose to make music with, and the people’s right to decide whether they want to see said conductor, or let him and Vienna Philharmonic play in an empty house. That’s it.

  • Rachelle Goldberg says:

    I think some readers have forgotten that in the late 60s and 70s Russian musicians were not permitted to give concerts in the west and Victor Hochauser and others went to extraordinary lengths to get them visas to come to the U.K. When a soloist such as David Oistrakh was performing one did not know until the actual concert itself if they would be performing because it was a last minute cancellation. Musicians have been used as politicial pawns because that is how these regimes operate. It then brings to prominence their cause. Now this is the reverse scenario so that is why is it is vital that Gergiev is not permitted to conduct.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Wouldn’t it be interestingly awkward if the President of the USA, the Governor of NY State, and/or the Mayor of NY City weighed in on the issue of these concerts (as the Mayor of Milan did re Teatro alla Scala). But that would call for a lot of laborious education about what a Vienna Philharmonic is, who Gergiev is, and where Carnegie Hall is located and what goes on there.

    • Sisko24 says:

      I hope this is a satirical comment. In the present moment, I’m finding it difficult to enjoy satirical comments while the hounds of war are on the loose. Seeing what’s going on in Ukraine reminds me that Stalin and Hitler were buddies…until they weren’t. Just as Russia and Ukraine were buddies…until they weren’t. And to think that once upon a time, Russia guaranteed the territorial integrity of Ukraine…until they didn’t.

    • Jim C says:

      I suspect they might be soon.

  • Andrey says:

    Let’s all at least write to both Carnegie hall and VPO and call them out on twitter. At least something. I feel so powerless…

  • enough says:

    What is Clive Gillinson going to say this time? Protests have been a regular appearance at Gergiev concerts for almost a decade and yet Carnegie continues to book him. Enough is enough.

    • NYMike says:

      Carnegie booked the VPO just as it books Berlin, Amsterdam, Royal Phil, etc. because NY audiences want to hear these orchestras and are willing to pay to hear them. The VPO chooses its conductor for concerts both home and abroad. Gillinson has nothing to do with its choice. I will be braving the picketers around CH because I want to hear the VPO which hasn’t been here in three years. BTW, I’m neither a Putin nor Trump supporter.

      • Nydo says:

        I agree, and will also be there, though I would have felt pretty conflicted about it if Gergiev and Matsuev were still on the bill once Putin actually commenced his personal invasion of Ukraine.

  • Stephen Tomchik says:

    His concert should not be cancelled but every ticket holder should stay home. That might bring some enlightenment to eternally-blind Vienna Philharmonic, if not to Gergiev.

    • John Kelly says:

      Agreed. And I am staying home and my money has been refunded. I have no idea why the VPO likes Gergiev anyway – boring

      • Nydo says:

        Gergiev is boring, until he isn’t; which is a fair amount of the time. There aren’t a lot of conductors that bring anything special that are around now, and Gergiev does, but inconsistently.

  • Gerald Stein says:

    Furtwangler did not support Hitler in a fashion comparable to Gergiev’s vocal support and personal closeness to Putin.

  • John Kelly says:

    Gergiev and Matsuev “Stained by Association” to quote the leader of the FREE world.


    CARNEGIE HALL – must CANCEL all Putin Sympathizers ♥

  • George Marc Alderman says:

    From Carnegie Halls website “Please note that Yannick Nézet-Séguin will conduct the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in place of Valery Gergiev. Pianist Denis Matsuev will also not perform as originally planned. The program remains unchanged.”

  • imbrod says:

    And the answer, from the Carnegie press office, is yet: YNS to step in for Gergiev, Matsuev replaced by TBA. Repertoire unchanged.

  • Harry Collier says:

    Meanwhile, those of us who just enjoy music will continue to enjoy music irrespective of nationality, politics, or race. Boycott British musicians because of British invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan (and many place elsewhere)? Boycott American musicians because of America’s invasions of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and many, many other places? Don’t listen to Mendelssohn because he was Jewish? I enjoy my collection of music by composers and musicians of many countries, many races, many eras, and many political beliefs. Thanks goodness music transcends races, cultures, nationalities and beliefs.

    • guest says:

      You miss the point. In Gergiev’s case it isn’t his nationality or race, it’s his public support of Putin’s politics. Name British musicians who publicly supported the invasion of Iraq, “and many place elsewhere.” Name American musicians who publicly supported America’s invasion of Vietnam, etc. The Mendelssohn parting shot was gratuitous crudity and says more about you than you realize, as does the all-pervasive virtue signaling of your comment.

  • Concerned reader says:

    Where were you guys when bush jr waged war on Iraq killing
    over 600,000 civilians??

    • guest says:

      Why, was there an American conductor, also general director of the arguably greatest opera house of the country, and flagship figure of Russian arts, who approved of Bush’s actions? Must have missed him. What was his name again?

    • guest says:

      *flagship figure of AMERICAN arts