At the beginning of 2015, Valery Gergiev has to occupy the post of the main conductor at the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. After Gergiev publicly supported the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine, doubts as for his appointment arose at the Munich City Council, Die Zeit reports.
The facts that Gergiev is on friendly terms with Vladimir Putin and expresses loyalty to the Russian government are well-known (by the way, protest rallies are organized before Gergiev’s concerts in London and Munich), but now, when the conductor, along with many other Russian cultural figures, signed a letter in support of Putin’s policy in Crimea, the Munich authorities seemed to wonder whether the city needs such an orchestra chief, writes svoboda.org. The position of those who started having doubts was expressed by member of the City Council, MP of the Buendnis 90/Die Gruenen Party Florian Roth:
“If Gergiev were to occupy the post of chief at the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, he would be not simply a conductor, but a representative of the city of Munich, a person who would have become a part of the city’s image. Such figure must be cautious in expressing his political views. Now Gergiev signed a letter as a director of a Saint Petersburg theater and orchestra. If in several years he signs something of the kind as a main conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, this will harm the city’s reputation,” Roth says.
Munich and Kyiv are twin cities. There has been a large Ukrainian community since the post-revolutionary times in the capital of Bavaria. The Ukrainian Free University, which was created by Ukrainian immigrants in the 1920s, is still active in the city; its diplomas are officially recognized in Ukraine since 1992. One of the university’s teachers Andrii Dufaniuk is convinced that “if Gergiev occupies the post of the orchestra conductor, his work will be accompanied by protest rallies, since the Ukrainian community in Munich will perceive the appointment of this person as an insult.”
The protest wave against Gergiev’s appointment is rising. Representatives of the Buendnis 90/Die Gruenen Party in the City Council insist that Gergiev should publicly account for his words and actions. In particular, the party’s statement includes the following: “If Gergiev still considers his actions and statements correct and has no intention of giving them up, he thus makes himself an unacceptable figure for the appointment to the post of the main conductor in Munich.” The Bavarian press is already writing that the contract with Gergiev might be terminated.
However, it is not only about politics. A Stuttgart-based newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung gives a sober assessment to Gergiev as a musician in the article “Russian School” and expresses doubts that he is capable of bringing something new to the orchestra: “When he conducts works by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, or Shostakovich, it is not music, but a dream. However, the picture is completely different when it comes to Western composers. He is only professional there, like many others, but he does not surprise with anything. Soon after the contract was signed, he performed Bruckner with his future orchestra, and this turned out to be a total disappointment, since he had nothing to say with this music. Of course, the Munich audience was spoiled by Sergiu Celibidache. He got away with a lot of things. Celibidache was an inconvenient person, but he fought for his orchestra only. Mariss Jansons tirelessly struggles against the city authorities for the construction of a new concert hall with the best acoustics. But Jansons, just like Celibidache in the past, is quite at home in Munich, his rootedness is undeniable. Kyrylo Petrenko managed to reach this level in a few months. As to Gergiev, he will never fall in in Munich!”