The Down Beat Goes On - But Not Here

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - 09:19 AM

Up until a few weeks ago, you'd hear a generous amount of recordings from pianist and conductor Mikhail Pletnev. But now that Pletnev is under investigation for child rape in Thailand his voice has been silenced in concert halls and on the radio – in the U.S. and U.K that is. But back home in Russia, and elsewhere his beat marches on. Pletnev founded the Russian National Orchestra 20 years ago and its season kicked off this month as planned with Pletnev on the podium. 

Over thirty years ago, Pletnev won the gold medal at the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition and he has since been celebrated for his recordings of piano music by Scarlatti, Mozart, Chopin and Beethoven. His specialty, however, is music by Tchaikovsky. His recordings of the six Tchaikovsky symphonies with the RNO were critically acclaimed.

Oddly enough, Pletnev is charged with the same behavior that Tchaikovsky was suspected of, and which some believe led to the great composer’s mysterious death. If found guilty Pletnev would serve up to 20 years in jail. I'd imagine concert programmers around the world are awaiting the trial and verdict and until he's exonerated, don’t expect to hear his Tchaikovsky, Beethoven or Scarlatti in a concert hall or on a radio station near you.

Do you want to hear Pletnev on the radio?  In a case like this are you willing to separate the art from the artist?

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Comments [11]

Naim Peress from Forest Hills

Of course it's terrible if he committed the crime and punishment would be deserved, but he is still a fantastic pianist and conductor.

Nov. 04 2010 04:56 PM

There appears to be a wall that separates the creative, artistic spirit from the human frailties or predispositions of some artists. Some supreme artists have been alcoholics, antisemites, womanizers, gamblers, ungenerous misers, philanderers, manipulators, child molesters, and things of the sort. We are all a mix of good and bad. This man has not even been convicted. Let us give him the same benefit of the doubt that we would give our own father. Let us praise the good he has already done. By all means, play his music.

Oct. 22 2010 04:28 PM
Paul from Brooklyn

I notice that WQXR doesn't play much of Michael Jackson's music. But I think other stations still do.

Oct. 10 2010 11:14 PM
Michael Meltzer

To elaborate on S.S's comment, entrapment and accusation of public figures, both true & false, followed up with attempted blackmail or extortion, have become a cottage industry, from the dentist's office to the David Letterman Show.
It is usually sufficient to merely threaten a celebrity with what WQXR has done here to get them to pay without question. In a way, false accusations can be even the more damaging than real ones because they may never go away.

Oct. 05 2010 01:04 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

I want to note the attitude presented in recent comments. It isn't merely a presumption or assumption of guilt, but a conviction of guilt. As I tried to point out, we live in times where even those found guilty are often innocent. Probably based on the same conviction of guilt.

Our milk cartons tell us by the hundreds of millions of the kidnapped, lost or stolen children in our neighborhoods. What they don't tell us is that in the majority of those extremely rare cases the "victims" are part of family disputes and were taken by other family members.

And that theft also has a political nature. Anyone remember the outrage at the kidnapping of Elian Gonzalez? The only voiced outrage I remember was at the attempt to return the child to his only remaining parent.

"If you disregard the sort of behavior they display, you are complicit in it. Silence kills people."

Isn't it strange how the grave concern about 'complicity' doesn't seem to apply to religious institutions?

"Isn't that special?"

If you disregard the not so distant past false convictions of dozens of people on trumped up charges amid wild hysteria then you are indeed complicit in it. Silence does kill.

The people that say "think of the little children" are usually the least concerned about children.


An example of the times that are very much still with us -

"My Lie": Why I falsely accused my father

Oct. 05 2010 09:25 AM

It is cheap and vulgar of you to bring up this subject in such an inappropriate place merely to create a sensation. Furthermore, it would behoove you to learn the difference between "issue" and "problem;" they are not synonymous.

Oct. 04 2010 08:53 PM
Paul Schwartz

You can't separate the art from the artist. There are plenty of other pianists and conductors out there who aren't pedophiles. I stopped listening to Wagner years ago and don't miss his music at all. Same with Orff. If you disregard the sort of behavior they display, you are complicit in it. Silence kills people.

Oct. 04 2010 08:47 PM
beverly joy from cambridge new york

i find this blog to be offensive for the reasons already stated by the comments left before me, as well as the vague serious aspersions cast against Tchaikovsky, a man not able to counter your remarks because of his morbid condition.

Oct. 03 2010 08:20 AM
Turandot13 from Hammonton, NJ (USA)

I'm glad you reminded me of why we have a presumption of innocence in this country.
Remember, allegations are just that - allegations, no matter what distortions may be plastered all over the internet.

We might wish to remember that until an individual has been tried and found guilty - on evidence, not hearsay - then they are certainly due the benefit of the doubt. Wouldn't you wish the same standard applied to yourself?

Oct. 01 2010 09:20 PM
Michael Meltzer

If the yardstick of rumor, innuendo and uncorroborated accusation were to be evenly applied, we would have a very different musical landscape than we enjoy today.
What to do with a proven felon is one issue. Whether we should conduct trials in the media and play "god" with people's careers is another issue, and we don't usually handle that one in a very grownup way.
In the real world we are often faced with choices where every possible outcome is for some reason, unhappy. We then have to decide what is right, what our consciences can best live with in the long run.

Sep. 29 2010 03:56 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

The "art from artist" issue is real, in terms of blacklisting people, but in fundamental terms - guilt or innocence, it's trivial.

I'm very reluctant to pre-judge people, especially on matters of child abuse accusations. I well remember the late '80s and early '90s when many people were famously falsely accused AND CONVICTED of child abuse on the basis of "expert" testimony from self serving people that thought nothing of putting innocents in jail under the most damning (in terms of prison treatment) charges. There were many cases locally and in California the most expensive prosecution (until OJ) falsely convicted people for child abuse. All were later exonerated when it was shown that the experts manipulated children (who could not be cross-examined) into falsely saying they were sexually abused. The "experts" were the child abusers yet they benefited from their abuses.

I also have a sense of political concerns with criminal accusations. There's a famous radio mouth that was found to have scripts from his doctor for Viagra on return from a place noted for under age prostitution. No charges and a minor newsflash.

The Catholic church. Lots of "rhetoric" but little punishment for what has the characteristics of internationally organized, or at least ignored, abuse.

It's this political aspect that's WQXR's concern of course. Can't take a chance on promoting the works of a child abuser.

Blacklist him. It's the safe thing to do. It's the corporate thing to do.

Sep. 29 2010 10:35 AM

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