Russian conductor Valery Gergiev dropped by leading orchestras and festivals over Putin ties

1 March 2022, 14:06 | Updated: 1 March 2022, 17:21

Russian conductor Valery Gergiev
Russian conductor Valery Gergiev. Picture: Getty

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Gergiev, a friend and supporter of President Vladimir Putin, has been removed from upcoming Carnegie Hall concerts among other conducting commitments.

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Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week, Russian conductor Valery Gergiev has been asked to resign from various international duties both as an orchestral conductor, and director.

In the past week, the music director has been relieved of his duties as the chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic, head of the Verbier Festival, honorary president of the Edinburgh International Festival. Most recently, the Rotterdam Philharmonic ended their relationship with Gergiev citing “insurmountable differences”.

An ultimatum was given to Gergiev by the Mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter last week around his role with the Munich Philharmonic. “I have made my position clear to Valery Gergiev and have asked him to clearly and unequivocally distance himself from the brutal invasion that Putin is waging against Ukraine and now in particular against our twin city, Kyiv,” the mayor said.

“If Valery Gergiev does not take a clear stance by Monday, he can no longer remain chief conductor of our philharmonic.”

The deadline passed with no response from Gergiev. A new statement from the Mayor of the Munich Philharmonic website reads, “Munich is parting from principal conductor Valery Gergiev.

“With immediate effect, he will no longer be conducting concerts of the Munich Philharmonic. Valery Gergiev has not spoken out despite my call to ‘clearly and unequivocally distance himself from the brutal war of aggression that Putin is waging against Ukraine and now in particular against our twin city of Kyiv’.”

Gergiev conducting the Munich Philharmonic
Gergiev conducting the Munich Philharmonic. Picture: Alamy

Gergiev was scheduled to conduct the orchestra in three performances at Carnegie Hall from 25 February 2022 as part of a five-day concert tour of the US.

“This change was made due to recent world events,” said Carnegie Hall spokeswoman Synneve Carlino. According to the Carnegie Hall website, the orchestra will now be conducted by Canadian conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who is currently music director of the Metropolitan Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

No official reason was given for Gergiev’s removal from the concert, with some outlets reporting that the conductor was removed from the programme, while others say he chose to pull out.

The music director of the Mariinsky Theatre is known for his close association with the Russian president, and in 2014 he gave a pro-Putin interview, justifying the president’s previous intervention in Ukraine.

Gergiev was not the only Russian to disappear from the Carnegie Hall lineup. Pianist Denis Matsuev, who has also been a vocal supporter of President Putin, was slated to perform Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2 with the Vienna Philharmonic tonight. Matsuev was replaced by South-Korean pianist, Seong-Jin Cho.

Read more: ‘Our culture is at stake’: Ukrainians use powerful music to voice their protests as Russia declares war

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets conductor Valery Gergiev during the awarding ceremony at the Grand Kremlin Palace.
Russian President Vladimir Putin greets conductor Valery Gergiev during the awarding ceremony at the Grand Kremlin Palace. Picture: Getty

The move came after Milan’s famous opera house, Teatro alla Scala sent a letter to Gergiev asking him to make a statement in favour of peace in Ukraine, otherwise he would not be allowed to return to the venue to conduct Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades (La Dame de Pique) in March.

The production opened on 23 February, the evening before Russia invaded Ukraine, and though Gergiev was applauded as he entered the orchestra pit, there were boos heard by the audience and one person called out that he should leave.

After the invasion on the morning of 24 February, Beppe Sala, the mayor of Milan, who is also the chairman of the board at La Scala, said, “We have at La Scala The Queen of Spades conducted by Valery Gergiev who has many times declared his closeness to Putin.

“So with the director of the theatre [Dominique Meyer] we are asking him to make his position clear against this invasion and if he does not do so we will be forced to renounce our collaboration with him.”

Gergiev is yet to respond, but La Scala’s website remains unchanged, with the conductor still slated to conduct the opera performances later in March.

Read more: Ukrainian operatic baritone sings his national hymn at 10 Downing Street in ‘call for peace’