In the March 15 New York Times Magazine, Arthur Lubow writes about conductor Valery Gergiev’s August concert in war-torn South Ossetia, where Georgian and Russian forces had recently ceased fire. “It was an extraordinary moment—yet it was classic Gergiev, both in his bold flair for the unexpected and in the visceral power of his musical program. … Gergiev’s music making was not just notes off a score: the conductor was riding the emotional wave of a common heritage—and echoing the exaggerated claims of Russian leaders that the Georgian shelling was a genocidal war crime. Of course, not everyone shares this vantage point. Gergiev’s position as a Russian conductor of international stature requires a tricky geopolitical straddle, with one leg planted firmly in the motherland and the other extending to the West. Western observers—including many in London, where Gergiev is the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra—condemned Russia’s invasion of Georgia as a return to the hegemonistic ambitions of the Soviet Union.” Lubow goes on to give a survey of Gergiev’s career accomplishments, how they are tied to Soviet and post-Soviet politics, and in general how difficult it is to separate music and politics in Russia.
Posted March 13, 2009