Russian music students bravely condemn conductor’s pro-Putin ‘Z’ stunt
23 March 2022, 11:21 | Updated: 23 March 2022, 12:36
Students, graduates, and teachers of the Gnessin Moscow Music School have criticised their principal’s ‘abhorrent’ political act.
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Last week, the Gnessin Moscow Music School YouTube channel published a video where the school’s director, Mikhail Khokhlov, conducted an orchestra wearing a ‘Z’ on his top.
The letter ‘Z’ signifies support for Putin’s war in Ukraine, and was also added to the video’s title. The orchestra playing in the video was the Gnessin Virtuosi, Russia’s first youth concert orchestra founded in 1990 by Khokhlov, and made up of students from the school. The music in the video: the opening movement from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor.
In a social media post published on 22 March, current students, alumni, and teachers at the school condemned Khokhlov’s video, calling the political stunt “abhorrent” as the conductor “recruited underage students” as “as a vehicle for expression of his personal militaristic worldview.”
The video has been taken down from YouTube by the uploader, but the full performance still remains on the school’s website.
Founded in 1895, the Gnessin school was nationalised by the Soviet state in 1946, and has received visits from Vladimir Putin to celebrate recent anniversary events.
In an open letter published yesterday, that was signed by over one hundred artistic leaders in classical music, conductor Vladimir Jurowski writes, “Not everyone feels able to testify clearly, because such a testimony could potentially cause significant harm to the person himself or to his family, friends and work colleagues in Russia or Belarus.”
So far, the post from the students, alumni, and teachers of the Gnessin music school has received thousands of likes, and hundreds of comments, including one from composer Gabriel Prokofiev.
The Russian-British musician and grandson of Sergei Prokofiev commented, “Strength to you all. The truth must be heard. Respect for standing up for your beliefs.” Prokofiev recently attended an orchestral flashmob in London’s Trafalgar Square in solidarity Ukraine.
Just got back home from this...— Gabriel Prokofiev (@gprokofiev) March 6, 2022
- I joined 300 musicians to form an orchestra to #PlayForUkraine in #TrafalgarSquare today & to show our solidarity with the people of #Ukraine. We don't support Russia's illegal invasion. #STOPTHEWAR #PEACEINUKRAINE (video: @paulpowlesland ) pic.twitter.com/FnZdabjBZe
The open letter was published in Russian and English on Gnessin graduate Dmitry Selipanov’s Facebook account.
On March the 16th, 2022, the YouTube channel “Gnessin World Channel” published a video entitled “Gnessin Virtuosi – muZical Offering”. In this video, the “Gnessin Virtuosi” orchestra of Gnessin Moscow Music School played the first movement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. The orchestra was conducted by the School principal, Mikhail Sergeyevich Khokhlov, who, for this occasion, donned a t-shirt sporting a large letter Z.
We, former students and graduates of Gnessin School, as well as its teachers, condemn this shameful action in strongest possible terms and consider it a horrible stain on the history of our school.
This action is a grave injury to the reputation of one of the best music schools of the world, and an insult to the honour and memory of Gnessin School famous former teachers.
We further consider it abhorrent for the principal to have recruited underage students for this ugly publicity stunt, as well as to have used the school as a vehicle for expression of his personal militaristic worldview.
The above-mentioned video was taken down from YouTube on March 21st, yet by that time thousands of people around the word had watched it. Moreover, as of today, it is still accessible on the official website of Gnessin School and via VK social network.
We would like to use this opportunity to remind you, Mr. Khokhlov, that our School is not just walls that you have had repainted, not just the building that you saved from takeover. The School, emphatically, is all of us, not you personally. We, therefore, in our capacity of representatives of the School, reject your views and your stance on this matter in strongest possible terms.
Catherine of Antokolskaya
Mariana The Train
Alexander Gordon (Zemtsov)
Asya Gulua (Kozhevnikova)
Catherine of the State
Elena (Olesya) Doskina
Elena Drabkin (Shagalova)
Polina Egudin (Kozhevnikova)
Tatyana Kalmykova (Menshikova)
Nelly Kravets (Litvinskaya)
Sophia the Swan
Mary the Swan
Love of Lviv
Anna Elizabeth Majorga Voycekhovskaya
Miriam Milgram Harat
Alexandra The Remembrance
Varvara the Unforgettable
Anna Prokopyeva (Selipanova)
Natella Thevdoi - Burmuli
Vladimir Tropp, Jr.
Elina Firetag (Palitskaya)
Julia Filhaber (Gotlib)
She is a hwan
She is a chekina