Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Gergiev's letter to Munich Philharmonic's subscribers

"Music is the best bridge-builder!"

Valery Gergiev, under fire for his support of Vladimir Putin, has written a letter to the subscribers of the Munich Philharmonic, the orchestra which he will head from 2015/16.

The city authorities and the orchestra are concerned that Gergiev may no longer be tenable as the Munich Philharmonic's new chief conductor following comments in which he appeared to link homosexuality to child abuse and in which he supported Putin's annexation of Ukraine.

Gay groups have demonstrated and protested outside his concerts in cities such as New York and London.
And, given Munich's large and visible gay population, there has been speculation that he may not actually take up his new position next year.

Now, in a letter to subscribers, he lays out his position in greater detail than ever before.

Here is the full text. It is dated: Munich, May 2014.

Dear subscribers and friends of the Munich Philharmonic,

The events in and around the Ukraine have been dominating the headlines over the last

few weeks, causing new rifts between East and West that are distressing to all of us. I,
personally, have also become the subject of accusations and controversial disputes. I
would like to take this opportunity to make a personal statement.
I am immensely proud of the fact that I have been appointed by the city of Munich to
head the Munich Philharmonic as Music Director in the 2015/16 season. Yet this
appointment means much more to me. In my opinion it is based on trust and on the
belief that, together, we can and must succeed in upholding this city’s unique musical
culture and to guide it into the future. I am fully aware of the magnitude of this task and
the responsibility associated with it and my future orchestra. Therefore, I shall do my
very best to ensure that our concerts are filled with unforgettable moments.

I am a musician and conductor. However, I am also a Russian citizen with close
connections to my native country. For nearly a quarter century I have been in charge of
the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, one of the world’s most prestigious theatres,
home to the the Mariinsky Opera, Ballet and Orchestra. My range of musical activities
is not limited to this one post. I have been conducting music in the most important cities
around the world for many years and work together with many orchestras and musical
colleagues. Music is both my profession and my passion and I have devoted myself to it,
heart and soul, from a very early age. I also assumed responsibilities to ensure that the
cultural and musical tradition of St. Petersburg continues to blossom.

Future political developments could give rise to problems along the lines of what we
are currently experience since some people might interpret my involvement given my
nationality. In some countries I am seen as a representative of a “different” society,
which does not stand for the values and principles of Western life, or does not advocate
for them strongly enough. But is this accurate? After all, our Russian musical culture
was Europeanised by Mikhail Glinka and is influenced and shaped, in particular, by the
German musical culture. Many people in my native Russia are very well aware of this.

Yet, on the other hand, I cannot ignore the fact that parts of Russian society live
according to fundamental principles that are different from those of Western societies.
For example, many elements of Russian culture are based on the Russian Orthodox
religion and the traditions associated with it which still plays a fundamental role in
people’s lifestyles. It is important to recognize that this tradition has helped the Russian
population to survive such difficult eras in the twentieth century.

I respect my people and their traditions. I also respect the principles of life that are
extremely important to the people of Russia. These include upholding taboos that have
not applied in Western countries for many years, but where many attempts and much
time was needed to abolish them. With respect to my personal stance, there is no one in
my ensemble and team who could accuse me of anything. One of my most important
principles is respect for others and their personal lives.

Of course, I am aware that my work, my initiative and my commitment - to the extent
that music has an influence on everyday life - demand a high degree of responsibility
towards my fellow citizens and at times these functions can be construed in a political
nature. Nevertheless, I aim a continuous believer in music’s power to reinforce societies
and their great traditions. That is why it is very important to me to help promote and
invigorate educational music programmes.

I know that many colleagues throughout the world support me in my efforts. Yet this
can and must not hide the fact that circumstances of Realpolitik can suddenly infiltrate
the common ground of our cultural work and cause harsh and jarring discord. In my
opinion, it is particularly crucial at times like these to still have the courage to listen to
the other side and to exchange opinions. Moreover, we should not lose respect for each
other and never allow for communication to breakdown. We should always be able to
exchange thoughts and ideas.

It might sound banal, which does not make it wrong, in fact, quite the opposite is true in
my experience: Music is the best bridge-builder!

I look forward to welcoming you to many concerts, perhaps as early as July as the
Munich Philharmonic and Marinsky Orchestra complete their Strawinsky Cycle

Yours sincerely,

Valery Gergiev


1 comment:

  1. Does this letter mean that annexing part of other countries is part of Russian culture? If Mr. Gergiev loves part of Ukraine recently annexed and dislikes Western tradition of honoring other countries sovereignty, he should not work in London or Munich, but go back to Russia. This will end this contradiction between his cultural values and principles of Western life.