Among other things, I asked him whether - since he can move mountains to make things happen in Russia - with his LSO hat on, he would also fight for the continuing health of our arts scene here.
"Not only if I am asked," he says at once. "I am always ready to do it – and whatever possible will be done at the right moment. When a new government comes in, it takes up to a year to understand what the promise is, or was; then what the reality is; and the big economic reality outside. Nobody can grant any country or city in the world a leadership for five years unless there is a very dynamic process of thinking, not only about economic developments, but also cultural developments; if these become nationally important then they become also globally important. I believe that the LSO, the Royal Opera House and the British Museum are national symbols...
... "Support for cultural institutions should not become smaller and smaller – it's dangerous," Gergiev declares. "It's not going to be the American way in the UK." He points out that the tradition for private philanthropic support for the arts in the US has been in place for more than 100 years.
"Many great institutions there have been supported for decades; sometimes more than 50 per cent of their strength comes from individuals' or corporate support – which now is also changing. It would be very dangerous and naive to think this will happen overnight in the UK, to think that the state support for certain arts institutions can reduce because the individuals' contribution will increase. I am afraid both will reduce. And that would be deadly."