Violinist Gidon Kremer to Stage Concert for Human Rights in Russia

Sunday, October 06, 2013 - 12:00 AM

The Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer will headline a concert on Monday in Berlin intended to draw attention to human rights issues in Russia, the latest salvo in what has been a busy autumn for classical musicians with an activist bent.

The concert, called "To Russia With Love," will include several classical stars including pianist Martha Argerich, pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, flutist Emmanuel Pahud and composer Giya Kancheli, performing works by Russian composers like Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky. It is being organized with various human rights organizations including Amnesty International.

Kremer selected the date because it is the seventh anniversary of the killing of the Russian journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya. Also citing jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Pussy Riot punk group and other journalists, activists, lawyers and musicians, Kremer said that, in Russia, there are "many more conflicting situations and many more people are being punished."

"I'm perfectly aware that our concert, our action, will not change the world," Kremer added in the video statement. "I do hope that it will raise public awareness of some injustice and support those who are in need." The violinist cited past musicians who spoke out about social injustice including Leonard Bernstein, Pablo Casals and Yehudi Menuhin.

Kremer, 66, has been an advocate for the works of Russian and Eastern European composers throughout his career.

As Alex Ross wrote this week in the New Yorker, Russia's new anti-gay laws have stirred the classical music field like few other political issues in recent times. Protests, both understated and noisy, were seen last month at the Last Night of the Proms and the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera. Additionally, a row broke out last month over a Russian conductor's statements about women in his profession and what he saw as their inability to manage orchestras.

These developments run counter to the traditional tendency of classical musicians who prefer "to cling to the illusion of an art that floats above politics, formally pure and spiritually aloof," wrote Ross.

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Comments [3]

Bruce Pribram from Brooklyn, NYC, NY

And the phrase should read "non-cardiac physiology". I must be getting old faster than I thought ...

Oct. 14 2013 09:25 AM
Bruce Pribram from Brookly, New York City, NY

There is no magic divide between 'art' and 'society'. It is born of the the world the composers, writers, performers live in. Shall we ban the Beethoven's Third, the memorial to Lidice, the War Requiem? I remember talking to a director who wanted to divorce the 'social' from the love story in Romeo and Juliet. The story derives from the social situation. does Carmen have nothing to do with social conditions? How about the impetus for Shostakovich's Fifth? There is no 'pure' music, albeit the experience aesthetically and physiologically is different from anything else man creates. Taste and quality are crucial in this, of course, but life is never separate from music. It is a product of life, and an enrichment of it. To speak of performance as 'solely music' is like talking about non-physiological cardiology. Disagree with the issues evoked (or not) by composition or performance: that is the point of raising them.

Oct. 14 2013 08:59 AM

What? Social commentary in the concert hall? No, no! The concert hall should be solely about music. Check your politics/human rights/common sense at the door, please. <end sarcasm>

Oct. 12 2013 02:07 AM

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