Friday, November 01, 2013

Whither Gergiev?

Woke up to reports flying around Twitter that Gergiev's concert with the LSO at the Barbican last night had a surprise speaker in the form of Peter Tatchell, who made his way on to the stage before the performance to protest about Gergiev's support for Putin, with regard to recently introduced anti-gay laws in Russia. (More on the background here.) Tatchell was swiftly removed, but the blog The Last Ditch suggests that a member of the orchestra also gave him a shove (not the world's greatest idea, chaps).

More concerning still is this report from ballet journalist and Arts Desk founder Ismene Brown re the situation in Russia vis-a-vis the Mariinsky and the leadership of the Vaganova Ballet Academy. A number of insiders there are placing blame on Gergiev's leadership for what they see as the financial marginalisation of ballet within the centre's artistic activities. Please read.

I have one concern to add. A recent CD I heard from LSO Live - the first of the Szymanowski series - sounded, essentially, as if Britain's top orchestra was under-rehearsed, a major problem in something as complex and gorgeous as Szymanowski's Symphony No.2. I found the disc disappointing, especially when listened to alongside Ed Gardner's account on Chandos. The next LSO/Gergiev album, of the symphonies nos. 3 and 4, fortunately seemed more successful - but standards, especially at this level, need to be consistent.

Some of us were much in favour of Gergiev's appointment to the LSO when it first happened. He would, we thought, raise the already fine international profile of the orchestra and of London with it; he would fill houses, compel audiences, produce unparalleled excitement in performance. All this has indeed happened. I've met musicians who adore him and who feel he pushes other conductors into the shade; some, indeed, who don't like playing for anyone else. And yet...things can (nearly) fall apart nonetheless. Upon that initial appointment, those who opposed it questioned his likely commitment to our orchestra compared to his Mariinsky.

My personal impression, from interviewing him a number of times over the years, is that for Gergiev - despite his protestations of admiration and affection for the LSO - the Mariinsky is the light of his life and he will do pretty much anything for it; and that it was to this end - ie, the ongoing development of and funding for his vision for the Mariinsky - that he has always found it prudent to talk directly to Putin.

The question is, as the TV presenter said to the tattoo artist: where do you draw the line?

A catch-up on this week's intense patch of other activities may have to wait (and I have to go to the dentist).