Polish-themed German festival jettisons conductor for being a friend of Putin.

The Saar Music Festival in Germany has dropped Valery Gergiev from the program declaring that it would be inappropriate for the Munich Philharmonic to be conducted by a “friend of Putin” in a Polish-themed event. The announcement comes just weeks before the controversial Russian maestro is due in Australia to conduct a series of concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Valery Gergiev

As reported on the www.bild.de website, Artistic Director at Saar Robert Leonardy said that the decision came after pressure was put on the Festival through diplomatic channels. “We were given a clear indication by the Polish Embassy in Berlin that Gergiev was not wanted” he explained. The Munich Philharmonic, for whom Gergiev is the incoming Chief Conductor, were due to play Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with Sol Gabetta as soloist – a concert that they will give a few days earlier in Paris. It now appears that another conductor will take the podium in Saarbrücken. “It really will not go to a Russian, and moreover an avowed friend of Putin,” said Leonardy, declaring that instead the Polish conductor Michal Nesterowicz would lead the orchestra.

The incident is yet another sign of the worsening relations between Russia and the West in the wake of the Ukrainian conflict and Gergiev’s apparent support for President Putin’s policies. It is yet to be seen what reception the conductor will receive in Australia, though the concerts look pretty much sold out.

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