Gergiev Appears in Putin Campaign Commercial

Friday, March 02, 2012 - 03:35 PM

Valery Gergiev has made what appears to be a campaign ad for Vladimir Putin, who is expected to win Sunday's contentious presidential elections in Russia. Gergiev runs the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and is the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra as well as being a sought-after guest conductor in New York. The video is posted on Putin's official YouTube channel.

According to a translation that music critic Alex Ross posted, Gergiev says, "When I'd present my passport, in 1999, on, say, the American border, I felt that people might not ... reckon with me. 'Oh, Russia...?' And tossed to the side. Since then, that hasn't happened. One needs to be able to hold oneself ... presidentially ... so that people reckon with the country. I don't know if it's fear? Respect? Reckoning."

Other artists to voice their support for Putin include soprano Anna Netrebko, pianist Denis Matsuev and violist Yuri Bashmet. Netrebko made headlines last year when tabloids claimed she was Putin's former lover. She denied this but said in a Newsweek interview that she wishes she'd had the chance: "I'd have loved to have been ... he's a very attractive man. Such a strong, male energy."

Among the Putin opposition camp is the New Russian Quartet, the resident string quartet of the Moscow Conservatory who performed a protest in December, and Mikhail Arkadiev, a classical pianist, composer and conductor.

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Comments [8]

Michael Meltzer

@Mr. Corsini:
It may seem academic, but there is a profound difference between "understanding and forgiving" (your words) and "not judging" (my words. Russians living in Russia who are middle-aged and older can remember the days when their friends and colleagues simply disappeared. We can suspect those conditions are returning or on the verge, but we don't know and are not in a position to understand what it is like to live like that. I think that Vladimir Ashkenazy's admonition to westerners, "If you weren't there, don't judge!" is certainly appropriate for the old days, and I suspect may apply again.

Mar. 04 2012 07:56 AM
Bernie from UWS

Music and politics have mixed throughout history whether one likes it or not. Just taking Russia as an example, it's a country where Shostakovich was frequently at odds with the authorities, who wanted him to write propaganda glorifying the state. He basically had to accept their demands while subverting them at the same time. Or you had musicians like the cellist Rostropovich who could no longer accept working under the oppressive conditions of the Communist government and defected. And plenty of other artists have found themselves in similar situations.

To say music and politics don't mix is silly in light of the ways music is routinely used a political tool. What's shameful is the way Gergiev, Netrebko and other public figures are supporting a regime that has so blatantly disregarded human rights, silenced journalists and stifled free speech.

Mar. 04 2012 07:17 AM
Thomas Lane Anderson from Pottstown, Pennsylvania

Just like religion, music and politics don't mix. Who cares about his political views? I'm vastly more interested in his Mussorgsky. Lots of Russians seem to like Putin. So what?

Mar. 04 2012 06:16 AM
Mattews from Madrid

To judge a musician for his political opinions is wrong. Just listen to the music.

Mar. 04 2012 02:33 AM
Aurora

I agree with G. Corsini, and found it very disheartening to read about Mr. Gergiev’s, Ms. Netrebko’s and other Russian musicians’ support for Putin, especially in light of Putin's and the Russian government's unwillingness to support the UN resolution concerning Syria and condemn the great human tragedy occurring there. If only Mr. Gergiev and Ms. Netrebko had the ethical consciences of the violinist Gidon Kremer and composer Arvo Part, who have addressed the injustices of the Putin regime. Gidon Kremer has dedicated his and the Kremerata Baltica CD DeProfundis to "all those who refuse to be silenced - namely to Mikhail Khodorkovsky" - who is currently imprisoned in Siberia, and considered by many to be a symbol of democratic change in Russia. Arvo Part has dedicated his Fourth Symphony to M. Khodorkovsky. This music truly speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves. I have searched for other CDs by classical musicians dedicated to a human rights issue, but have not yet been able to find them.

Mar. 03 2012 01:34 PM
Gerard Corsini from NYC

Dr. Lawrence had it right (both in what he said and wanted to say). Mr. Meltzer should consider what the brave people of Syria are doing to address oppression, not deem compliance with "fascist" demands both understandable or forgivable, whether for professional reasons, personal safety or otherwise. Using one's international reputation to support a "dictator" is inexcusable and merely diminishes that reputation and includes the holder thereof in the circle of those who support and benefit from the "dictatorship" for personal gain.

Mar. 03 2012 12:47 PM
Michael Meltzer

For a conductor to be a fascist is part of the job description. This should be no surprise, and perhaps we should not judge. It was not that long ago that such support would have been required in Russia for reasons of professional and personal safety. It is possible that those conditions are returning.

Mar. 03 2012 02:51 AM
Dr. M Lawrence from NYC

Just goes to show again that musicians can support vicious KGB power-mongers, just as some supported Hitler. (And if WQXR edits this comment, which is very civil given what I really wish to say, rest assured I will never contribute to it again.)

Mar. 02 2012 08:28 PM

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