Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Why Gergiev is OK

Sitting in a quiet study in our leafy London suburb, it's too easy to forget that people read this in New York and sometimes write in to a forum on the New York Times! (Why don't our newspaper websites have forums? Why are we so slow on the uptake on this side of the pond?)

Anyway, the latest is that someone wrote in and said 'there goes Jessica's credibility' because I'd suggested that Gergiev is 'head and shoulders above' etc etc. Someone else wanted to know whether they meant 'Jessica Simpson'. (I have no idea who Jessica Simpson is. Must have missed her somewhere between Homer, Marge & Bart. My favourite character is Lisa.)

OK. Just because I said VG is all that, it doesn't mean I like everything he does. I have a recording of him doing The Nutcracker which upsets me - it steamrolls through most of the best bits. But the concerts I have heard him do have been more thrilling than any other concert experiences I've had, at least for a conductor 'of his generation'. NB, Gergiev is in his early 50s. Most of the newsworthy conductors are either the eminences grises - Haitink & co - or the youngsters like Jurowski and one or two others. Of the middle ground, age-wise - well, Mariss Jansons is a bit older, Saraste and Belohlavek have their moments and are very reliable and although Rattle has some seriously wonderful moments and others that are less so, I've only experienced him lighting a collective fire once. Gergiev takes no prisoners. He has phenomenal energy, phenomenal charisma and an absolute belief in whatever his mission of the moment may be and orchestras give their all for him. And I seem to remember that it was listening to him conduct The Rite of Spring that sparked off my novel.

So no, I don't like everything he does. But where's his contemporary competition?