Finally music writers and others have realized what kind a person the London Symphony Orchestra's present Principal Conductor Valery Gergiev is:
Last Thursday the human rights activist Peter Tatchell gatecrashed the opening night of the London Symphony Orchestra's Berlioz season at the Barbican to protest against Valery Gergiev, calmly walking onstage before a note had been played to make a speech denouncing the LSO's principal conductor's support for Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Gergiev is a great conductor," Tatchell said, "but he colludes with a tyrant and shows little respect for freedom and equality."
The tipping point for Tatchell, and also apparently for the organisation Queer Nation who interrupted a Gergiev performance at New York City's Carnegie Hall in early October, were comments Gergiev had made to a reporter in Rotterdam. Legislation Putin signed into law earlier this year banning the promotion of homosexual "propaganda" was, Gergiev said, about protecting his fellow countrymen from paedophilia, remarks that crossed a boundary by equating homosexuality with child abuse.
Were Gergiev's words merely dim-witted and ill chosen? If you're feeling charitable you might like to think so, but his quote makes for an unnerving read in the context of everything else Gergiev has said about Putin, and his point-blank refusal to speak up about other breaches of basic political freedoms in Russia. After members of the punk band Pussy Riot were imprisoned for staging an anti-Putin protest at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow in February 2012, Gergiev implied, bizarrely, that the band were motivated merely by increasingly their profile and "earning millions and millions". But consider this. In 2012 Gergiev, along with 549 other prominent Russians, signed a petition in support of Putin's re-election. And earlier this year, Mariinsky II, a state-of-the-art new opera house in St Petersburg, Gergiev's centre of operations in Russia opened – bankrolled by the state to the tune of a cool 200bn roubles (£450m).
Gergiev and the LSO's problem is that political actions have musical consequences. I've spent life-changing evenings at the Barbican listening to the LSO. Concerts by Leonard Bernstein, Dave Brubeck, Michael Tilson Thomas and Colin Davis will stay with me forever, but now the LSO brand feels tainted through association.
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I totally agree with Philip Clark. The LSO made a huge mistake by choosing him as Principal Conductor. Having had the privilege to attend many of the unforgettable LSO/Colin Davis concerts at the Barbican in the 80's and having had the even great privilege to meet him a few times, I cannot imagine that Sir Colin would have welcomed a person like Gergiev to take up the position he used to have. The LSO cannot for long have a Principal Conductor with no integrity and credibility.