Journal De Bruxelles - Munich orchestra drops Russian conductor Gergiev over Ukraine

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Munich orchestra drops Russian conductor Gergiev over Ukraine
Munich orchestra drops Russian conductor Gergiev over Ukraine

Munich orchestra drops Russian conductor Gergiev over Ukraine

Acclaimed Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, known to have close ties to the Kremlin, was fired Tuesday from his job as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic after failing to denounce Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

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"With immediate effect, there will be no further concerts by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra under his direction," Munich mayor Dieter Reiter said in a statement.

The dismissal is the latest blow for the 68-year-old classical music titan who has come under pressure from arts institutions around Europe since Russia attacked Ukraine last week, and has been dropped from a slew of prestigious concerts.

As well as being the principal conductor in Munich since 2015, Gergiev is also the chief and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg.

He has not yet spoken publicly regarding Moscow's offensive, but he has proven fiercely loyal to Russian president Vladimir Putin in the past, allying with him on the 2014 annexation of Crimea and a law aimed at stifling LGBT rights activists in Russia.

The Munich orchestra had given Gergiev until Monday to take a stance against Moscow's aggression, but the deadline passed without a response from the conductor.

"Valery Gergiev has not spoken out despite my request that he distance himself clearly and unequivocally from the brutal war of aggression that Putin is waging against Ukraine," Reiter said.

- 'Clear signal' -

"A clear signal to the orchestra, its audience, the public and the city's politicians would have been indispensable in order to be able to continue working together. Since this did not happen, the only thing that remains is an immediate separation."

Gergiev had in recent days already been dropped from upcoming concerts at the renowned Philharmonie concert hall in Paris and by the Vienna Philharmonic at New York's Carnegie Hall.

The Edinburgh International Festival has also cut ties with him, as has his agent in Germany, Marcus Felsner.

Gergiev was told last week he would be sacked from performances of Tchaikovsky's opera "The Queen of Spades" in Milan's Teatro alla Scala if he did not publicly condemn the war in Ukraine.

The mayor of Milan and president of La Scala, Giuseppe Sala, on Monday said Gergiev had "not responded".

When asked about an upcoming performance on March 5, he replied: "I don't think he will be there, I think we can exclude him at this stage."