Exclusive: Sacked Russian maestro is back at French job

Exclusive: Sacked Russian maestro is back at French job


norman lebrecht

November 16, 2022

Soon after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, the mayor of Toulouse ordered conductor Tugan Sokhiev to issue a condemnation of the war.

He refused, and chose instead to resign as music director of the Orchestre Nationale du Capitole.

Under parallel pressure in Moscow, Sokhiev also resigned as music director of the Bolshoi Theatre.

This week, he’s back behind the baton in Toulouse.

The musicians are delighted and it seems likely, we hear, that he will be asked to resume his former job.

Throughout the conflict, he has refrained from political comment. He stands by his original statement:  ‘I have never supported and I will always be against any conflicts in any shape and form. For some people even to question my desire of peace and think that me, as a musician could ever speak for anything other than Peace on our planet is shocking and offensive.’


  • Anthony Sayer says:

    I think it’s doubtful he’ll be asked to resume his former position.

    • RW2013 says:

      … or that he will ever have as much hair again.

    • GG says:

      Even before his resignation happened, his tenure in Toulouse was supposed to end in summer 2022.
      It’d be surprising that he’d be asked back… but since it’ll be difficult to find a great music director (also considering there will be a lot of competition for the most promising ones, such as Peltokoski…) it can’t entirely be ruled out.

      • Anthony Sayer says:

        They’re looking and have some very interesting ideas. This kind of thing decision takes time and don’t forget Sokhiev’s CV was in minus when he started in 2005 and was far from the finished article some claim to see now. What’s more, the man who hired TS retired last December though still appears to be involved politically.

        • GG says:

          For sure they’re looking and have ideas… and are actively testing them as guest conductors. But it’s still difficult to find a music director who’d have a potential matching Sokhiev and Plasson (!), with unanimous approval by the musicians.
          Furthermore, young promising conductors are nowadays hunted by many orchestras, Toulouse won’t be alone and likely not their most prestigious option. If they want to sign one of the future big talents, they can’t afford to wait for too long.

        • GG says:

          By the way, it’s more a question of musicians’ choice and feedback than of CV. Tugan Sokhiev did not have a great CV at the time, but he was the front runner the musicians wanted.

          His lackluster CV at the time might actually have been helpful to have him sign, and then build this long-term relationship…

          • Anthony Sayer says:

            Considering regular and valued guest Yannick Nézet-Séguin was also in the running it’s hard to imagine the choice was exclusively down the musicians.

          • GG says:

            Not saying it’d be the only criteria, just that their feedback would have more weight than the CV. They obviously rated Sokhiev higher than some of the other candidates with a bigger CV.
            Press at that time did report that the musicians felt it was a great fit.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    He was going to leave anyway. He resigned a month before his contract expired.

  • Robin Mitchell-Boyask says:

    I sincerely hope he keeps enough space on his calendar to return to Philadelphia more frequently. His recent concerts here with the Orchestra showed he’s one of the few that can get it to sound like its old self.

  • Jonathon says:

    He wasn’t sacked…he resigned.

  • Downvote King says:

    He just did a week in Philadelphia. It was phenomenal.

  • Brettermeier says:

    And now that Russia obviously is losing on all fronts, he’s back.

    How convenient.