Rotterdam Orchestra cuts long-standing ties with noted Russian conductor Gergiev
The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the board of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Festivals no longer intend to work with the Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, because he has not distanced himself from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The decision brings to an end a decades-long collaboration between the Rotterdam institutions and the famed conductor. As a result of the decision, the planned Gergiev Festival in September will not take place, and will cease to exist altogether. Rotterdam Philharmonic Festivals is the organizer of the annual event.
"Last night contact was made with Gergiev and in this conversation, the gap has proved unbridgeable," the Rotterdam organizations wrote in a statement on Tuesday.
The organizations already announced on Friday that they had taken note of the Russian invasion of Ukraine "with dismay" and that they expected Gergiev to take a clear stance against it. If he was unwilling to distance himself from the invasion in the short term, they indicated that he would no longer be welcome to perform with them in Rotterdam. Orchestras, producers, and venues in other countries have also had similarly difficult discussions with the 68-year-old conductor, who is said to maintain ties with Putin, and several have already canceled upcoming collaborations.
George Wiegel, director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, said that Gergiev has always worked "to great satisfaction musically,” but the invasion of Ukraine is "too intense" for the two organizations to ignore Gergiev's position on it. He was a vocal supporter of both the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, and the invasion of the South Ossetia region of Georgia in 2008. Gergiev comes from North Ossetia, Russia.
Rotterdam’s relations with Gergiev date back 35 years. He first conducted the Rotterdam orchestra during a televised performance at the Concertgebouw in 1987. The following year, he led four of the orchestras concerts, soon becoming a permanent guest conductor. He was named the head conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic in 1995. The festival that shares his name was launched a year later. He remained the head conductor until 2008. During that period, he helped the orchestra flourish and win several awards. He was later named an honorary conductor.
"Although the end of this collaboration is a painful decision from a musical point of view, both organizations see no other option. An alternative interpretation of the remaining programs is currently being looked at," they said on Tuesday.
The Munich Philharmonic Orchestra also fired Gergiev, its lead conductor, on Tuesday over his friendship with Putin, and for his refusal to distance himself from Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The conductor had been given an ultimatum to speak out against Russian aggression in Ukraine before Monday evening but remained silent on the matter.
Reporting by ANP.