Exclusive: Moscow music director resigns over Ukraine war

Exclusive: Moscow music director resigns over Ukraine war


norman lebrecht

April 23, 2022

We have been informed that the conductor Pavel Kogan has officially submitted his resignation after 33 years as Music Director of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra.

He said he found it impossible to work with the orchestra due to the war that Russia is waging against Ukraine.

Kogan, 69, left Russia in the first week of March.


  • John Borstlap says:

    A conspicuous gesture.

    I read that there are gradually more negative reactions bubbling-up in Russia, for instance by the parents of soldiers who died at the front. You cannot lie all the time to an entire population, however you try to suppress reality and put a fantasy in its place.

  • Nick Norton says:

    Maestro Kogan served as Principal Guest Conductor of the Utah Symphony Orchestra from 1998-2004. During his time in Utah he was an enthusiastic advocate for the orchestra and an audience favorite. I commend his brave stand against this barbaric attack on the Ukrainian people.
    Nick Norton
    Former Principal Trumpet
    Utah Symphony Orchestra

  • André Papillon says:

    Pavel Kogan’s resignation could be motivated by the fact that his father was Ukrainian. He’s the son of Leonid Kogan and a nephew of Emil Gilels. Quite the pedigree…

    • Artem Wahrhaftig says:

      It’s not this simple with the identities: a person born in Odessa in 1916 or 1919 (like Emil or Elisabeth Gilels) – or in present-day Dnipro in 1924 like Leonid Kogan into Jewish families have never been regarded as “Ukrainians” either by themselves or by their neighbours – so, it’s not the point definitely.
      Maestro Pavel Kogan’s interest in some further work beyond Russia – probably is 🙂

      • AJ says:

        Thank you for saying this! My great-grandparents (and many others alike) escaped Odessa in the beginning of the 20th century due to the pogroms waged against Jews. Most Jews of that part of the world only spoke Yiddish and did not speak either Ukrainian or Russian. I never refer to myself as having Ashkenazi heritage, not Ukrainian. Although I stand with the people of Ukraine in this horrible war, I would be personally insulted to be referred to as Ukrainian, as would most Jews in America and Israel who have fled the region in the last century.

        • As a person who is half Jewish and half Ukrainian I am aware of how complicated this can be. This is absolutely true, that Ukrainians of Jewish origin in the 19th century regarded as Jews says:

          As a person who is half Jewish and half Ukrainian I am aware of how complicated this can be. I am terribly self conscious of describing myself as Ukrainian at this moment, although it is true-my mother was a native Ukrainian speaker. I don’t want it to sound like I suddenly discovered this identity on the Jewish side (who came from England and Russia to Canada). That Zelenskiy is a Russian speaking Jew only further demonstrates how absurd these divisions are. These grotesque and disgusting pronouncements by Putin that “Ukrainian is not a real identity” are justified in his sick mind by these nuances.

      • André Papillon says:

        Very interesting point. Thank you for bringing it up. Two generations later, Ukrainians elected a Jewish president.

  • Peter says:

    The distinguished readers of Slippedisc would never have given him another choice, anyway.

  • Tim Walton says:

    At least he shows more morals than his faith who was a KGB spy and after Rostroopovich found out he refused to play with him again (I was told this by Rostropovuch himself).

    • Artem Wahrhaftig says:

      ……whatever dirty gossips you were “told” it’s your responsibility whether to retell them or not 🙂
      If you mean “father” by “faith” – i. e. Leonid Borisovitch Kogan (1924 – 1982), a great violinist – yup, he was truly good enough to evoke envy, jealousness and therefore gossips like that 🙂

      • Nicholas says:

        Claude Samuel’s book on Rostropovich and his wife includes this bit of information of Leonid Kogan being a Snitch, operating in the cell of the famous Gilels, Kogan, Rostropovich Trio.

      • Nicholas says:

        NL wrote in The Spectator, May 11, 2017, Secrets and Spies, referencing how Soviet musicians were reticent in having open discussions in front of Leonid Kogan because of his KGB connections. The environment in the Soviet Union made it difficult to trust anyone.

    • Andrey says:

      Rostropovich said many things to many people. Many of those stories did not stand up the scrutiny of fact checking including myself. These mentioned stories also served as a large reason for Rostropovich to be as famous as he is. So please take that particular story with a large grain of salt.

    • Klotylda M. says:

      Until you see documents confirming this cooperation, be careful. Especially since no one has accused Kogan of harming him with his denunciation.

    • Aida says:

      His faith?

  • JS says:

    A Russian classical music news site gives this information quoting Slipped Disc as its source. But they write that they reached out to Kogan for comment and received no response. https://www.classicalmusicnews.ru/news/pavel-kogan-leaves-mgaso/

  • Artem Wahrhaftig says:

    ……it doesn’t seem likely Pavel Kogan left Russia in the beginning of March, 2022 – just because it was [and is] widely known here, he has already been absent from the country for a long time: you can’t leave if you are not in.
    One of his last – or maybe even last – public appearences in Moscow took place in the end of May, 2021: I met him and presented the concert he conducted at the Tchaikovsky Hall – Beethoven’s Emperor and the Alpine Symphony. Not really sure he was conducting anything here after that.
    People say he’s “somewhere in Lithuania” since the pandemic…..

  • Artem Wahrhaftig says:

    ……I’m forced to disprove your information: no, he didn’t say a word about war, Ukraine and that sort of things to anyone in Moscow at least.
    According to the musicians who heard his farewell letter read aloud at the rehearsal: nothing but sadness and gratitude. That’s it 🙁

  • Rudiger says:

    Bravo, Maestro Kogan!

  • Novagerio says:

    The story of Leonid Kogan being a KGB spy and State snitch is old news, especially the part that he was tormenting his own brother-in-law Gilels – together with his wife, who happened to be Gilels’ own sister.

    The usually apathetic Sviatoslav Richter said also thet “one had to be careful when talking in front of Oistrach and Kogan”.

    Incidentally, here’s a text by our hoast himself:

  • Claudio Rossi says:

    Kudos to Pavel Kogan…
    It’s unfortunate that once you make a stand like that you will never be able to work in Putin‘s Russia…
    Clearly he has alternatives and is already abroad… some people don’t have that alternative…