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EDITORIAL

I wrote the following editorial just before the tragedy in Norway. I am shattered by this embodiment of racial hatred that resulted in such a massacre – the worst in modern history, barring war crimes, such as Srebenica. The Norwegian government is right to consider bringing the perpetrator of these murders to trial for crimes against humanity.
My point is that Auschwitz and Utøya and Oslo and any racial crime begin with hate speech. Therefore, we must all be alert and on the watch for such speech, particularly from people in positions of authority and this includes those in the Arts, Clergy and Politics. 
Finally our tribute to the Norwegian martyrs can be seen below.

The Train Conductor, Mark Gorenstein

For ages we have been hearing announcements about all the money and trouble being put into this year’s Tchaikovsky Competition. Ultimately, Russia’s super business conductor snatched half of the competition for his own musical empire in St. Petersburg in return for chairing it (of course the reason given was that the end of the renovation of the Great Hall of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory might be delayed, but no one believed that for a moment). And the result? Scandal. There will always be scandals at musical competitions, but this wasn’t musical. This was a racist scandal and it took none other than “conductor” Mark Gorenstein to create it. The most amazing thing is that Gorenstein who has proven himself inept during previous Tchaikovsky competitions (and not just at the competitions, but overall) was once again given the job of accompanying the competitors. In any case, the competition decided this year, with great fanfare, to stream everything live, including rehearsals. Big mistake. Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to attend a Gorenstein rehearsal, let alone play in one, will know that the musicians are subjected to barrages of insults and blamed for everything that goes wrong. His nasty temper is as a result of attempting to cover up all the blunders that he makes. 

However, let us return to Mr. Gorenstein’s racist outburst. This is the rehearsal with the brilliant and ultimately, the Gold Prize winner of the cello competition, Narek Hakhnazaryan from Armenia. Suddenly, Gorenstein stopped for one of his tirades and told the orchestra"Пусть вас совершенно не заботит, что играет этот талант, преподнесенный нам, этот аул... Вы будете играть со мной...”, which translates as “do not give a toss about what this “talent” is playing here … this Aul… You must play with me!” Now “Aul” is the name for a village in the Caucasus or Central Asia. However, it is used as a racist insult in Russia towards non-Russians from the Caucasus or Central Asia. It is grotesque for the conductor of a Russian cultural institution to use such a term. We should not, however, be surprised that such foul uncultured and hooligan language rolls off the tongue of Mr.Gorenstein who is a well-known ignoramus. 

His appointment in 2002 was one of the greatest mysteries and scandals of all time in the Moscow musical scene and confirmed the rise of mediocrity in Russian symphonic life. It occurred after the orchestra, formerly known as the USSR State Orchestra, was reeling from the huge upset with the Great Russian conductor Yevgenyi Svetlanov. Unfortunately, great as he was as a conductor, Svetlanov was an impossible personality with an ego second to none. As he got older things became worse and worse. In any case, rows resulted between the musicians and Svetlanov and it was all most unfortunate and ugly. The musicians uploaded on to the Internet a rather badly written, stupidly thought out piece with all their complaints. Things went from bad to worse, until the then Minister of Culture, Mikhail Shvidkoi, fired Svetlanov, creating an appalling and shocking end to the great conductor’s time at the helm of this illustrious orchestra. The musicians called for Alexander Lazarev, former conductor at the Bolshoi Theatre, to be appointed as Chief Conductor following two years with an interim conductor, Vassily Sinaisky, who left of his own accord. Shvidkoi refused to consider Lazarev and without informing either the orchestra’s management or the musicians, appointed Gorenstein. 

Who is Mark Gorenstein? In short, he is a charlatan and as a conductor, the Emperor with no clothes. He was a violinist until, like so many instrumentalists today, decided that his true calling was to be a conductor. So without further ado, he became a “conductor” and was immediately invited in 1985 to become the conductor of the MAV orchestra in Hungary. The MAV orchestra was one of two amateur orchestras of the unions in the then East Bloc country. It was for the workers of the Hungarian Railways (Magyar Államvasutak). The MAV and the Post office workers’ orchestra, the Postas orchestra, were standing jokes when I studied at the Liszt Academy. Whilst it is great that people play in orchestras even if they are not professionals, it was because of the communist ideology, that they absurdly had regular subscription concerts in Budapest’s main hall, which is located in the middle of the Liszt Academy. As we rushed between classes, one would hear Beethoven’s 7th being blasted out by the postal workers or the railway workers chugging through the Jupiter. We would plug our ears and flee through the corridors. 

Following this impressive railway appointment, Maestro Gorenstein returned to Russia (presumably in a MAV carriage) where he was made head of a newly founded orchestra, called “ Young Russia”. This obviously never really took off under Gorenstein and so it must have been a relief to have such a mentor and pal in Minister Shvidkoi, who signed away the former treasure of Svetlanov and the USSR straight into his hands. Gorenstein promptly brought in some protégées from the Young Russia orchestra, leaving the great old professional musicians in the State Orchestra without jobs. 

As things hit rock bottom and most people, especially audiences abroad, exclaimed “Who the hell is Gorenstein?!” damage control was needed and so some bright spark decided that they would rename the orchestra the Svetlanov Orchestra! That would help the PR for all the agents and surely the gullible audiences would swarm back to concerts with the great Svetlanov Orchestra under…sorry, what’s his name again?. This has not worked either. 

Now though, Mr. Gorenstein has tripped up badly. Russia is fighting a rise in racism, which it is trying to bring under control. Suddenly there, live on the Internet, is the conductor of one of its leading cultural institutions, calling an Armenian a name that is the equivalent to any of the racial insults used in Russia that we simply recoil from. 
Incidentally, Mr. Hakhnarzaryan was born into one of the richest cultural cities in the world, Yerevan, and into a distinguished family of musicians, his mother a pianist and his father a violinist. He studied at the Moscow Conservatory and is now studying at the New England Conservatory of Music. More about Mr. Hakhnarzryan

Despite the public apology from Gorenstein, which he was no doubt forced to give by a mortified (I hope mortified and not just politically correct) competition organising committee, I am sceptical. When Gorenstein was told upon his appointment to lead the State Orchestra, that the orchestra didn’t want him, he shouted, “ I don’t give a damn!”
“Maestro” Gorenstein should be fired. Immediately. Blow the whistle and put him back on a train. 

Links to the horror story of Gorenstein’s appointment in the Russian press can be found here: 

ГОРЕНШТЕЙН И ГОСОРКЕСТР ЗНАЮТ, ЧТО ДРУГ ДРУГУ НЕ НУЖНЫ. ШВЫДКОЙ СЧИТАЕТ ИНАЧЕ
У Минкульта плохо со слухом