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02 December 2007


David Adler

This is an important post but here's what it misses: Sean Penn and crew are not flocking to Russia for photo-ops with Putin, whereas Chavez is being proclaimed a hero by many on the idiot left. That's why the "handwringing" about Chavez. Putin is a first-class creep, you're right, and the Gergiev stuff is truly disturbing.


Hi David,

Thanks for your comment. As you know, we disagree on how much importance to assign to the coveted Sean Penn endorsement. And while the highly selective outrage over Dudamel is irritating, in the grand scheme of things I'm not even all that concerned about Gergiev making excuses for Putin (and nobody in the classical press calling him on it, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra using his relationship with Putin as a selling point on their site); it's the lack of response from world leaders to Putin's thuggish attempts to run up the score in the current election that's got me really worried. (For all Chávez's faults, I haven't yet seen any evidence that the current Venezuelan referendum is being gamed.)

There's also the larger point that Chávez is not Venezuela and Putin is not Russia. The Russian people have suffered through centuries of misrule and oppression, but obviously there is also an incredible cultural legacy there, one which is well worth celebrating -- even in such overtly patriotic displays as, for instance, a great Russian orchestra touring the US, performing the music of great Russian composers. When it comes to Russian artists, everyone gets that -- but when it comes to Dudamel and the SBYO, it seems a different set of standards apply.

Howard Mandel

Great post - Its about time someone looked at the hypocrisies so common in the middle brow music appreciation movement that is represented by Alex Ross and puff piece writer to the war criminals ANTHONY TOMMASINI. BTW whatever his politics the Gergiev/Kirov Snow Maiden at Carnegie was just great yesterday. Despite the torture at Abu Greiv and CIA locations throughout the world I sxpect to enjoy The BSO/Levine/Flemming concert tonight. I don't quite get what coonection I'm supose to be making between the politics of a government and people who live under the yoke of that government.



Thanks for your comment, Howard, but to be clear, it was certainly not my intention to single out Alex Ross (or Steve Smith) for opprobrium. The passages I quoted from Alex and Steve are, taken by themselves, entirely reasonable. But in order to point out the institutional double-standard (which is hardly the fault of any one individual) I needed to pull some representative quotes from someone. I picked Alex and Steve precisely because (I hope!) they both understand that I have tremendous respect for their work and that no personal slight is intended.


Yes, hypocrisy is indeed the word. I don't hear anyone lambasting say, Yo-Yo Ma for nfailing to criticise George Bush whom many people in the world would accuse of being every bit as much a tyrant as either Chavez or Putin!

Peter Matthews

Thanks for the shout-out, Darcy. I suppose it's something of a Furtwangler-esque situation: the guy just wants to make music, and has needed to work within the system/sistema he found himself in to do so. Not to mention Chavez has only been in power for eight years; Dudamel has been involved with El Sistema since 1986. I realize Furtwangler paid a heavy price for his passive acceptance of the Nazi regime; let's not make the same mistake twice. Regardless, I imagine this will quickly become a non-issue as Dudamel scales back his involvement with the SBYO and more and more of his time on the international concert circuit.


Great use of Rorschah to accompany this post. It is hard to know where the grey ends and the black & white begins. It is not hard to initially exhibit Rorschah's moral absolutism when judging artists such as Dudamel. But if one is going to stick to such a hard line on the issue, you are right, it should extend to all, not just the example in recent news.


oops! make that gray, not grey.


On March 21 and 22 of 2010, Gergiev and Mariniinski Orchestra played at concert in Davies Symphony Hall. On both days there was a small group of protesters who held signs “Gergiev Conductor of Propaganda!” They were not there to protest Gergiev as a conductor, but as a political figure he chose to display himself as in Tkhinvali August of 2008 when he conducted his orchestra for the occuping forces in Georgia. He stood on the stage infront of the pre-selected journalists from all over the world and lied. He said that the Georgian soldiers killed 2000 peaceful, sleeping Ossetians, the lie that was proven wrong by the UN fact-finding mission. He thanked the occupying forces and played for them Shistakovich’s 7th symphony. While the music played a french journalist stumbled upon a cage thaqt contqained about 100 Georgian people including elderly men and women. It is no secret that shortly after that concert Gergiev received funds from the Russian government to rebuild the opera house in St. Peterburg. While Tkhinvali, the city he claimed to love is still in ruins.

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