Salzburg, we have a problem

Salzburg, we have a problem


norman lebrecht

May 09, 2022

The people in this picture are board members of Teodor Currentzis’s MusicaEterna orchestra, based in St Petersburg and funded by the sanctioned, Putin-linked VTB bank.

The people you see are: Andrey Kostin (Chairman of VTB’s governing board), Alexander Beglov (Governor of St Petersburg), Elvira Nabiullina (Governor of Russia’s central bank) and Currentzis himself.

All are direct beneficiaries of the Putin regime, which has illegally invaded Ukraine and is daily responsible for the massacre of civilians.

Salzburg’s artistic director Markus Hinterhäuser is determined to engage this Putin ensemble as a limelight of this summer’s international festival.

Where, in all conscience, does that leave the Salzburg Festival?


  • IP says:

    I still happen to think that the wonderful people in the UK who teach midwives how to help men in labour do much more to help Mr.P. than a hundred concerts with TC conducting 1812 possibly could.
    That said, it is a very nice picture. Enlightened faces, TC dressed up as almost normal, some fine china, and one of those lovely Russian icons — St.Michael with a Kalashnikov? St.George riding a nuclear missile?

  • Gustavo says:

    Geld stinkt nicht (in Salzburg).

  • Gareth Jones says:

    It leaves Salzburg (and Austria) exactly where it always believes itself to be: sui generis, beholden to no one and no principle beyond the Festival itself. Surely you’ve learned that after all these years?

    • Maria says:

      Church tax is compulsory for Catholics in Austria. This tax was introduced by Adolf Hitler in 1939. Don’t pay it, you don’t get a church funeral, so many are beholden to some one in Catholic Austria, whether you go to church or not!

      • Nik says:

        Also, you’re not allowed to renounce your church membership unless you settle any unpaid church tax.

  • Eldar says:


  • Alan says:

    The double standards are actually breathtaking. I despise Putin and his invasion. But where were the strident cancellation requests when GB and the US invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. To name just two.

    Currentzis is in a nearly impossible position. Indeed arguably he could denounce Putin, keep his jobs and move on. His orchestra patently cannot. What about them?

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Collateral damage. Just like Ukrainian citizens. We can live without a few concerts. We can’t live without our humanity.

    • Simpson says:

      His orchestra will get another conductor. It’s simple.

    • BigSir says:

      Alan, a little history. 9/11 was planned in Afghanistan when the Taliban were in power. The invasion was because of that. No one would deny the right of the US to invade Afghanistan to root out terrorists enemies of the US. As far as Iraq, I agree with you.

      • Tamino says:

        It was planned in Afghanistan? Not really. The alleged mastermind, Sheikh Mohammed, lived in Pakistan. The hijackers were mostly Saudis, an Egyptian and a Lebanese. None of them came from Afghanistan or was trained there. None. No Afghanis among the terrorists. Funny, eh? Afghanistan “only” harboured Osama Bin Laden.
        Invading Afghanistan for retaliation for 9/11 is like invading Vatican City for retaliation against Spanish Conquestadores.

  • William Osborne says:

    Where, in all conscience, does that leave the Salzburg Festival? In about the same place at Germany and Austria which import tens of millions of Euros worth of gas every day, all of which helps fund Russia’s invasion.

  • MJA says:

    I think you mean “highlight” rather than “limelight”, NL – not quite showing your customary exactitude there. But, and in all conscience, I’m wondering why you are conducting what is starting to look like a campaign against the Salzburg Festival. Is it really because of moral outrage generated by Putin’s war in Ukraine? Because I know you’ve written in the past of your disregard for festivals like Salzburg and Lucerne (although I note that you accepted an invitation from the Friends of the Salzburg Festival a little while ago). Is this just a way of pursuing that animosity by other means? In which case, it’s perhaps a little cynical and opportunistic of you. Or is it just because Currentzis is interesting, fashionable and controversial so a bit of an easy target? As for Markus Hinterhäuser, he has served – and is serving – Salzburg exceptionally well with rare artistic and intellectual vision, direction and operating skill. They are lucky to have him and we are lucky to have the Salzburg Festival. We should cherish it, as the world would be a poorer place without it.

    • Tristan says:

      disagree fervently as it’s been very poor all in all since he took over after ruining the Vienna Festival! His only luck is the pampered press (like Mortier did it so well) locally and also by the lousy German one no one taking seriously any more
      Remember Gergiev conducting Boccanegra for example in between badly conducting Tannhaeuser in Bayreuth which was such a disaster and in Salzburg the miscast for Verdi was badly executed – this is just one among many other mediocre performances
      Giovanni last year had the lousiest cast Salzburg has ever heard and first time the manipulated critics rightly reported how bad it was – however it’s the money that counts in Salzburg and just think of them approaching Gazprom and inviting Putin (after Crimean invasion!) – shameful and dirty!
      Salzburg should rethink its status as it has become hypocrisy pure….
      Just stay away (save lots of money…) as you can go anywhere else to get it better – except Bayreuth which has been run down also

    • Helene Kamioner says:

      Tomaselli’s is about the only “cherishable” outlet in Salzburg. I’ve been and trust me when I say it the Salzburg Festival disappeared today no one would cry about it.

      • MJA says:

        @Helene Kamioner – speak for yourself – you don’t speak for me, which refutes your second sentence and also shows that you’re not to be trusted on your own terms. I suspect I’ve been to Salzburg many more times than you but, if it’s not to your taste (whatever that might be), then just stay away. No one will cry about that, for sure.

        • Helene Kamioner says:

          @MJA the difference is that I attended Salzburg in a professional capacity, in the golden years of Leontyne Price recitals and Jean Pierre-Ponnelle productions. And after that too, as a pampered guest in the days of Vilar …and I say not one tear would be shed if Salzburg closed its doors today. There will always be Bayreuth and the Bayerische Staatsoper. So MJA, I hope you continue to praise its mythical Kaiserschmaren Opera productions and the denaizified Vienna Phil. for the rest of your life.

          • MJA says:

            @Helene Kamioner – you seem fond of inaccurate assertions. You’re just plain wrong that “not one tear would be shed if Salzburg closed its doors today” – maybe not by you, but certainly by me and many others. Also, what you call “the difference” is no such thing: I first went to Salzburg as a student in the late 70s to see and hear Leontyne Price as Leonora in ‘Trovatore’. The real difference is that if you attended “in a professional capacity” then I suspect you probably didn’t have to pay for your tickets. And I don’t share your apparent hangup about the VPO which, like your comment about the Bayerische Staatsoper, is a bit of a giveaway. And yes, you may also have benefited from corporate hospitality, unlike me. But then, I went just for the music, and Salzburg has since yielded me some of the most “cherishable” musical moments of my life. Each to their own – given your evident interest in coffee and cake, I hope you enjoy the cafes and kaiserschmarren [sp] wherever you are.

          • Alan says:

            Hear hear. Utter rubbish. Speaking on behalf of other people. They sell near 300000 tickets a year. Do you really expect us to believe that all those pepople would just shrug their shoulders and walk off happy that the festival had disappeared? Like MJA I have had some great times there and will continue to attend.

          • Helene Kamioner says:

            given your evident interest in coffee and cake….you got that right!

    • Tiredofitall says:

      No, you hit it right the first time. It is moral outrage…the sort of moral outrage that Austria has historically avoided.

  • Harry Collier says:

    I thought this blog was supposed to about MUSIC, not about politics. Plenty of sites that spout politics; not too many sites that spout classical music.

  • BigSir says:

    (1) There is no connection between military decisions and artists in Russia, and (2) in Russia, the government funds the arts. Lets quit blaming the artists.

    • Helene Kamioner says:

      Public figures, in this case artists have a responsibility to the public….common decency to begin with.

  • David says:

    Yes more art from financiers of genocide, rape and child murderers. Perhaps they could also release a Reinhard Heydrich commemorative cd, or establish a scholarship in his name. Fine violinist, superb musical taste, and architect of the Holocaust. Utterly unconscionable insult to the unimaginable suffering of millions.

  • Richard Willmer says:

    I have already written to them about this outrageous invitation. Next we will see them inviting that ‘cellist friend of Putin’s to perform, After all, art and politics are two different things…

  • M McGrath says:

    Ah, Austria and the Salzburg Festival. Always on the side of right – and might – and money. “We stand above the fray.” Which means they leave inconvenient principles to others to follow.
    Droves staying away from the festival is the only thing that would make them pay attention. I doubt if any monied sponsor would drop out because of this.