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Valery Gergiev's career is over outside Russia

He conducted Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7: Leningrad here in San Diego

Gergiev has long been a favorite of Vladimir Putin.
Gergiev has long been a favorite of Vladimir Putin.

Way back in October of 2018, Valery Gergiev stopped by San Diego with the Mariinsky Orchestra and performed Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7: Leningrad. The symphony was written between 1941 and 1942 during the German siege of Leningrad.

Now Ukraine is under siege from Russia and Maestro Gergiev has not made any public comments condemning Russia’s actions. Long a favorite of Vladimir Putin, Gergiev has come under scrutiny in the past based on Putin’s politics.

Video:

Gergiev conducting Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17

Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, from the Salle Pleyel in Paris, 2010

Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, from the Salle Pleyel in Paris, 2010

Now the scrutiny has become definitive action. Gergiev has been released from his positions in Munich, Rotterdam, and Milan. He has been released by the Edinburgh International Festival and removed from conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in its upcoming five-concert tour of the U.S. Switzerland’s Verbier Festival requested that Gergiev resign as music director, and he did.

This appears to be the end to Gergiev’s career outside of Russia. If the war ends in Russia’s favor, it is difficult to see Gergiev being welcomed back to the West. Should Ukraine prevail, perhaps Gergiev would be welcomed back in time, but he is 68 years old, and time is not on his side.

There are some who are swearing off Russian culture in general. This is a mistake. If there is anywhere we should be looking it is at high culture.

High culture is what endures after empires vanish into the mists of history. Can anyone name the tsars who reigned during Tchaikovsky’s life? Does anyone even care who the tsars were during Tchaikovsky's life? I don’t.

Does it matter who conducts Tchaikovsky? It might matter in the moment of the concert, but ultimately it does not. Should Gergiev never conduct again, Tchaikovsky will remain and remain undiminished.

I am using Tchaikovsky as the example here because his Symphony No. 2: The Little Russian holds a pertinent position in the context of this struggle. The title “Little Russian” is a reference to Ukraine.

Tchaikovsky used three different Ukrainian folk songs in his second symphony. At the time, Ukraine was often referred to as “Little Russia.” The inclusion of the folk songs makes this symphony The Little Russian. In other words, this is the Ukraine Symphony by Tchaikovsky.

Tchaikovsky received veneration from his Russian colleagues for including the folk songs in this symphony. Previously Tchaikovsky had shown little interest in the nationalism of composers such as The Five: Mily Balakirev (the leader), César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Alexander Borodin.

The Ukrainian folk songs suggested that Tchaikovsky was open to creating Russian music as opposed to absolute music. Absolute music is music composed without any intention to represent or illustrate anything except itself.

The symphony had its premiere in 1872 and was an immediate hit. It is Tchaikovsky’s happiest symphony and has remained popular if often overshadowed by his Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Symphonies.

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Gergiev has long been a favorite of Vladimir Putin.
Gergiev has long been a favorite of Vladimir Putin.

Way back in October of 2018, Valery Gergiev stopped by San Diego with the Mariinsky Orchestra and performed Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7: Leningrad. The symphony was written between 1941 and 1942 during the German siege of Leningrad.

Now Ukraine is under siege from Russia and Maestro Gergiev has not made any public comments condemning Russia’s actions. Long a favorite of Vladimir Putin, Gergiev has come under scrutiny in the past based on Putin’s politics.

Video:

Gergiev conducting Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17

Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, from the Salle Pleyel in Paris, 2010

Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, from the Salle Pleyel in Paris, 2010

Now the scrutiny has become definitive action. Gergiev has been released from his positions in Munich, Rotterdam, and Milan. He has been released by the Edinburgh International Festival and removed from conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in its upcoming five-concert tour of the U.S. Switzerland’s Verbier Festival requested that Gergiev resign as music director, and he did.

This appears to be the end to Gergiev’s career outside of Russia. If the war ends in Russia’s favor, it is difficult to see Gergiev being welcomed back to the West. Should Ukraine prevail, perhaps Gergiev would be welcomed back in time, but he is 68 years old, and time is not on his side.

There are some who are swearing off Russian culture in general. This is a mistake. If there is anywhere we should be looking it is at high culture.

High culture is what endures after empires vanish into the mists of history. Can anyone name the tsars who reigned during Tchaikovsky’s life? Does anyone even care who the tsars were during Tchaikovsky's life? I don’t.

Does it matter who conducts Tchaikovsky? It might matter in the moment of the concert, but ultimately it does not. Should Gergiev never conduct again, Tchaikovsky will remain and remain undiminished.

I am using Tchaikovsky as the example here because his Symphony No. 2: The Little Russian holds a pertinent position in the context of this struggle. The title “Little Russian” is a reference to Ukraine.

Tchaikovsky used three different Ukrainian folk songs in his second symphony. At the time, Ukraine was often referred to as “Little Russia.” The inclusion of the folk songs makes this symphony The Little Russian. In other words, this is the Ukraine Symphony by Tchaikovsky.

Tchaikovsky received veneration from his Russian colleagues for including the folk songs in this symphony. Previously Tchaikovsky had shown little interest in the nationalism of composers such as The Five: Mily Balakirev (the leader), César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Alexander Borodin.

The Ukrainian folk songs suggested that Tchaikovsky was open to creating Russian music as opposed to absolute music. Absolute music is music composed without any intention to represent or illustrate anything except itself.

The symphony had its premiere in 1872 and was an immediate hit. It is Tchaikovsky’s happiest symphony and has remained popular if often overshadowed by his Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Symphonies.

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