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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gergiev vs Beethoven - who wins?

Everything I hear about the personality of Valery Gergiev irritates and annoys me: his apparently close friendship with Vladimir Putin, his denigration of gays, his extreme right-wing views on pretty much everything. But should we allow this to interfere with our pleasure in his work? Should we support demonstrations against him at concerts he is conducting? I would find it difficult to do that: the case of Herbert von Karajan comes to mind, who if he wasn't a thorough-going Nazi gave a very good imitation, but was nevertheless perhaps the greatest conductor his generation, much applauded, much rewarded. I suppose one can't actually decry greatness in an artist simply because of his political or social opinions; it may prompt us to decline to shake his or her hand, but what if Gergiev (who by his support for Russia seems to be taking a stance against democratic freedom) conducts a wonderful performance of Fidelio, one of the great demonstrations in favour of political and personal freedom. Withdraw our applause from Gergeiv and thus from Beethoven? Well, well -  who said life was easy?

P.S. - Are there many truly great Communist/Fascist, severely right-wing composer, writers, painters?
Can't think of many . . .

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