Why Valery Gergiev will be no great loss

By Norman Lebrecht  Slipped Disc  The #1 Classical Music News Site   February 27, 2022

I first heard of Valery Gergiev around 1990 when a friend called from Covent Garden to say he’d heard nothing like this conductor since Wilhelm Furtwängler. I soon saw what he meant – the fluttery gestures, the unaccountable atmosphere, the intensity of the playing.

I got to know Valery quite well over the next two decades. His made it his mission to save the Mariinsky Theatre by earning hard currency on western tours, and exporting its homegrown stars to Vienna, London and the Met. Many of his performances in those years were unforgettable, but the signs of decay soon set in.

At the Rotterdam Philharmonic, his first overseas job, I saw players shouting at him for coming late to rehearsal, or missing it altogether. At the London Symphony Orchestra, his next post, he kept three phones on his stand in rehearsal and answered them when he felt like it, in complete disrespect to the music and musicians.

In Munich, he took the money and flew home by private jet. When Putin called, he dropped everything and flew to his flag.

Saddest of all, the Mariinsky talent bank dried up. The last major export was Anna Netrebko, and that was quarter of a century ago.

So if Gergiev vanishes from the world scene now as a result of his Putin complicity, the loss will not be greatly felt. Gergiev is 68 years old, out of energy and with little left to give. A year or two back in St Petersburg might help him regenerate. But his backing for the brutal Russian colonisation of Chechnya, Syria and Ukraine will live with him forever.

This morning he was fired by his western agency, Felsner Artists.

He will not be missed.

Gergiev is fired by his agent

Another item in Slipped Disc  February 27, 2022

A message from Markus Felsner in Munich seems to confirm expectations that the city will tear up Gergiev’s contract tomorrow:

Today I have informed Maestro Valery Gergiev that he is no longer a client of Felsner Artists. In the light of the criminal war waged by the Russian regime against the democratic and independent nation of Ukraine, and against the European open society as a whole, it has become impossible for us, and clearly unwelcome, to defend the interests of Maestro Gergiev, one of the greatest conductors of all time, a visionary artist loved and admired by many of us, who will not, or cannot, publicly end his long-expressed support for a regime that has come to commit such crimes.

Valery Gergiev is for me, and will continue to be, the greatest conductor alive and an extraordinary human being with a profound sense of decency, whose relentless commitment has helped countless artists to build their international careers and has brought the beauty of music to millions of people around the world. The work of his life are the thousands of phenomenal musicians, dancers and other employees of the Mariinsky Theatre and their families, for whom he has always felt responsible, as family. Maestro Gergiev has merits for the arts unparalleled by virtually any living artist.

It would be utterly wrong to hold artists accountable simply because of their nationality. All art is political, but not all artists are politicians. However, artists also understand the clear difference between patriotism and active political support of one’s nation’s current government. My most sincere hope is that the State Academic Mariinsky Theatre and its director Valery Gergiev will soon enjoy the freedom to represent a nation in the world that is rightly proud, not only of its immense artistic heritage, the beauty of its language and its wonderfully talented people, but also of the adherence of its leaders to peace, the open society and the rule of law. When a government viciously attacks the order of peace on which our entire continent was re-built, a previously outspoken political supporter of that government, holding a government-supported office, cannot in my personal view, in a seemingly neutral way, appeal to ‘both sides‘ for peace, or remain altogether silent. Nor can those who serve him with love and devotion.

I am personally heartbroken. At the same time, I could not possibly continue our professional services for any of our artists, or look in the mirror, knowing that we might directly or indirectly benefit in any way whatsoever from a regime that wages war against us all. This is the saddest day of my professional life. My thoughts are with Valery Gergiev but, more so, with the millions of victims of the criminal war unfolding before our eyes.

Valery Gergiev’s last friend speaks out

Yet another item in Slipped Disc  March 2, 2022

A statement by his North America agent, Doug Sheldon:

As manager for Valery Gergiev in North America, I stand firmly for an independent Ukraine and against the Putin and Russian government policies of suppression, aggression, invasion and war.

Maestro Gergiev’s unwillingness to speak against those policies has made it impossible for the international music community to accept him on the concert or opera stage. I have cancelled his touring plans and appearances in North America.

I have had an extraordinary 30-year professional relationship with Valery and it hurts me deeply to see that relationship come to such an end.

The vision for music’s place in the world that Valery and I have shared remains constant.

Doug Sheldon

Below are further items on the subject

[Further item on the subject]

Now Gergiev is banned by Japan

By Norman Lebrecht, Slipped Disc, September 30, 2022

A few weeks ago, the isolated St Petersburg conductor was bragging that a western boycott would not affect his massive demand in Asia, specifically China and Japan.

Well, yesterday Japan let it be known that November and December concert tours by Gergiev and his friend Denis Matsuev have been cancelled. Both have close connections to Vladimir Putin.

A Kremlin official attending the funeral of former prime minister Abe said this was ‘not a wise decision’.

Mikhail Shvydkoy, special representative of the Russian president for international cultural cooperation, said that supporting Putin’s policies did not mean having less talent as a musician. He added that Russian culture is an integral part of global culture.

For Gergiev this is a severe blow – not just for himself and the Mariinsky company but, more intimately, for his plans to launch his teenaged son Abisal as an international pianist.

Those plans are now on ice.

[Yet another item on the subject]

Neutral Sweden sanctions ‘pro-nuclear’ Gergiev

By Norman Lebrecht, Slipped Disc, October 12, 2022

The Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm has issued a rare political statement, expelling Valery Gergiev from its membership.

‘He was excluded on the basis of his unwillingness to take a stand against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a stance that the academy demanded of him in consideration of his well-documented close relationship with President Vladimir Putin … The academy should not be associated with a person who so unequivocally supports a regime that threatens nuclear war.’