Thursday, October 23, 2008

You should occasionally look at the results


Valery Gergiev's politics are big news right now. Richard Morrison asks in BBC Music Magazine 'Should conductors play around with politics?' while Norman Lebrecht reveals that a Gergiev peace concert was sponsored by an ex-Soviet oligarch on trial for smuggling arms. It is all worrying stuff. But what is more worrying is the reaction of audiences to Gergiev's music making.

I have to be honest and admit I am not Gergiev's biggest fan. I praised his London Mahler 8 here recently. But when I listened to the BBC Radio 3 relays of his Rachmaninov symphonies with the London Symphony Orchestra last month I thought them his usual soul-less, driven, jet set music making. But whatever Gergiev plays, and however he plays it, some of the audience for his London concerts will always behave as though their football team has just scored the winning goal.

Richard Morrison is on the side of the football fans and reports that Gergiev 'is idolised by many music lovers in Britain and America'. But word on the street is that other music lovers are voting with their feet and tickets for Gergiev concerts are being returned. Those who know the difference between celebrity and quality are making far from positive comparisons between the Russian and his predecessor at the LSO Sir Colin Davis. Others are saying that the distinctive sound of the LSO, which positively glowed under Sir Colin, is becoming indistinguishable from the steely tone of the other orchestras that Gergiev conducts on his global here today, gone tomorrow itinerary.

The LSO are, understandably, right behind their man. But the people who pay for the tickets seem to be less sure. Perhaps the orchestra should remember the words of that truly great politician, Winston Churchill - 'However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results'.

More problems with Rachmaninov here.
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