Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra’s decision not to play Russian composer ‘a terrible mistake’ says classical music critic
The Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra’s decision to remove Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky from its forthcoming programme due to the conflict in Ukraine has been branded a “terrible mistake” by a classical music critic.
Ivan Hewett said that the decision showed “how quickly common sense can be set aside, when passions are inflamed by conflict” and that all of Russian culture now faced a boycott “just because” of “one man” who had decided to invade Ukraine.
“The question might seem trivial, when set beside the vast human suffering now being unleashed in Ukraine,” Ivan Hewett said in an opinion piece in the Telegraph newspaper.
“But this cancellation is only one sign of a wider cultural boycott now being mooted. All around the world, musical or operatic events that involve Russia or Russians are being called into question, or revised to eliminate all Russian participation.
“There is something desperately sad about this decision. Music, more than any other art form, has the potential to leap over political divisions and find our common humanity.”
He added: “There’s another aspect to the question of banning specifically Russian music that we must keep in mind. Banning a nation’s music has grievously damaging effects which go beyond the simple loss of this or that symphony or opera.
“A great musical tradition, as the Russian one undoubtedly is, embodies an entire way of thinking and feeling. In the late 19th century, when composers such as Debussy, Ravel and Respighi were seeking a way to escape the suffocating dominance of the Austro-German tradition, it was Russian music many of them turned to.”
Martin May, the director of Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra, explained the context behind the decision.
In a statement he said: “A member of the orchestra has family directly involved in the Ukraine situation and we are trying to respect that situation during the immediate term. There were also two military themed pieces as part of the programme that we felt were particularly inappropriate at this time.
“We were also made aware at the time that the title ‘Little Russian’ of Symphony No 2 was deemed offensive to Ukrainians. Whilst there are no plans to repeat the Tchaikovsky concert at the moment, we have no plans to change our summer and autumn programmes which contain pieces by Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Rimsky-Korsakof.
“So this is a one-off decision made with the best of intentions and there is no intention to exclude Tchaikovsky in particular. He is one of my favourite composers. We are aware that, whatever decision we made, it would not go down well, so we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
A statement on St David Hall’s website said: “In light of the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra, with the agreement of St David’s Hall, feel the previously advertised programme including the 1812 Overture to be inappropriate at this time. The orchestra hope you will continue to support them and enjoy the revised programme.”
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