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(Photo credit: Hiroyuki Ito)

Munich Philharmonic Threatens to End Gergiev's Contract as Chief Conductor


As reported by Robert Braunmüller of the German news source Abendzeitung, the Mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter, gave Russian conductor Valery Gergiev an ultimatum: condemn Putin's military actions by February 28 or have his Chief Conductor contract be terminated. 

The letter translates to, "I have clarified my stance against Valery Gergiev and urge him to also clearly and indisputably distance himself from the brutal assault Putin sent against Ukraine and now especially against our partner city Kyiv. If Valery Gergiev does not clearly position himself here on Monday, he can no longer remain the chief conductor of our philharmonic."

“The current situation in Ukraine concerns me deeply, the events since today shock me," Reiter continues. "Kyiv is the partner city of Munich and I have publicly placed myself on this: With great disruption, we all had to take note that Russia is now waging an open war against Ukraine. I am stunned by this barbaric act of Russian power. Putin is pursuing his nationalist goals with all brutality and without regard for human lives. This horrific, unlawful aggression must be stopped asap. Our concern is especially applicable to our partner city Kiev, which, like many other places in Ukraine, has already been targeted. Of course, we will provide civilian and humanitarian support to relieve the suffering of local people in the best way possible.”

“Together with the Orchestra representatives of the Munich Philharmonic, I expect from you as the chief director of the Orchestra now to give a clear sign of distancing from the unlawful attacks against Ukraine,” he concluded.

Gergiev has served as the chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic since the 2015-16 season, having performed all of Dmitri Shostakovich's symphonies and a cycle of works by Igor Stravinsky with both the Philharmonic and the Mariinsky Orchestra.

Throughout this tenure, Gergiev has publicly endorsed Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2013, for example, Putin gave Gergiev the Hero Of Labor of the Russian Federation Prize, reviving the Stalin-era prize in gratitude of Gergiev voicing his support in Putin's election campaign video.

Other organizations are also criticizing Russia's attacks on Ukraine and calling on Gergiev to denounce the decision. The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra has released a statement explaining that if "Gergiev does not openly distance himself from President Putin's action in Ukraine, we are forced to cancel the concerts with him." The Rotterdam Philharmonic Festivals organization has also threatened to cancel the Gergiev Festival in September. It is noted that concrete decisions will follow and be released as soon as possible.

Carsten Brosda, President of the German Theatre and Orchestra Association, also released a statement condemning the military action: "The Deutscher Bühnenverein stands in solidarity with all those who continue to firmly believe in these possibilities of diverse and peaceful coexistence, in the power of art and the pacifying effect of culture and who now have to fight for it." You can read the full post below:


Concurrently in other countries, organizations are calling on Gergiev for similar actions. In Italy, Milan's Mayor Beppe Sala and Teatro alla Scala's CEO Dominique Meyer are asking that Gergiev take a firm stance against the Russian invasion. According to Milan's news outlet Corriere della Sera, if Gergiev doesn't promote peace, his collaboration with the company will be over.

In New York, Gergiev was replaced by Yannick Nézet-Séguin in three concerts with The Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, following threats of public protests if Gergiev were to perform. 

Additionally, The Vienna Philharmonic has officially removed Gergiev from the additional tour dates that were originally planned in Naples, Florida. The replacement is to be announced.

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