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THE SCOOP | Montreal Symphony Raises Debate Over Cancellation Of Russian Pianist

By Michael Vincent on March 9, 2022

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The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) has withdrawn Alexander Malofeev, a young 20-year-old Russian pianist, from three upcoming performances.

Malofeev, who lives in Moscow, is currently in Montreal to perform on March 9, 10, and 13 under the leadership of acclaimed American conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.

He had been slated to perform Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Opus 26. The fact that the work was from a Russian composer born in present-day eastern Ukraine may have also played a role in the cancellation.

Officials from the OSM issued a statement stating that Malofeev’s performance this week would be incompatible with their mission.

“Considering the serious impact on the civilian population of Ukraine caused by the Russian invasion, the OSM must announce the withdrawal of pianist Alexander Malofeev from performances of the concert, Michael Tilson Thomas: Monumental.”

The orchestra suggested it would have been inappropriate to move forward with the concert, considering what is happening in Ukraine. They added that they “look forward to welcoming this exceptional artist when the context allows it”.

The OSM has since re-programmed the concert with works by Brahms, Grieg, and Schubert.

Besides pianist Alexander Malofeev, Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev have also had events cancelled.

Does Malofeev support the Russian invasion?

Malofeev has expressed his dismay over the Russian aggression towards Ukraine on Facebook on a number of occasions.

“The truth is that every Russian will feel guilty for decades because of the terrible and bloody decision that none of us could influence and predict,” he wrote in a post dated March 2, 2022.

In another post dated March 7, he wrote, “I do understand that my problems are very insignificant compared to those of people in Ukraine, including my relatives who live there. The most important thing now is to stop the blood. All I know is that the spread of hatred will not help in any way, but only cause more suffering.”

Today he took to Facebook again to apologize to the audience for the cancellation, which he said was due to “political reasons”.

Not everyone agrees with vetting artists for their political views

Leila Getz, the artistic director of The Vancouver Recital Society, experienced online backlash for her decision to cancel a performance of Malofeev this week. Concerned about the message it would send by holding the concert and the possibility of being confronted by Ukrainian protesters, she decided not to go through with it.

In a statement to the Vancouver Sun she said she is “…not a bigot. I care deeply about Alexander Malofeev, but I feel more comfortable doing this than I do bringing him to Vancouver. I feel like I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t.”

National Review music critic Jay Nordlinger was also among those critical of the cancellations.

Jay_Nordlinger-tweet-march_9,_2022

In a statement from the former Canadian Opera Company general director and now Paris Opera head, Alexander Neef, also expressed concern. “You can’t just put everybody under general suspicion now. You can’t demand declarations of allegiance or condemnations of what’s going on.”

Our coverage of the cancellation via Ludwig van Montréal on Facebook has been flooded with comments debating the issue.

This isn’t the first time artists have been cancelled in Canada for political reasons

Readers may recall our coverage of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s decision to cancel Russian pianist Valentina Lisitsa over tweets expressing her controversial views on Ukraine in 2016.

“Due to ongoing accusations of deeply offensive language by Ukrainian media outlets, we have decided to replace Valentina Lisitsa in our April 8 and 9 performances of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, stated former TSO president & CEO Jeff Melanson. “As one of Canada’s most important cultural institutions, our priority must remain on being a stage for the world’s great works of music, and not for opinions that some believe to be deeply offensive.”

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Michael Vincent
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