PASSIONS ON THE CONDUCTOR AND ORCHESTRA

Among all big theatrical and musical scandals for being dismissed and

sent to retirement, the most controversial was the suspension and the
following dismissal of Mark Gorenstain as a chief conductor of the
State Symphony Orchestra of the Soviet Union named after E. F.
Svetlanov. It all has started during the P.I. Tchaikovsky competition,
when the recording of the rehearsal was uploaded to the Internet.
Working with the orchestra (the contestant Narek Ahnazaryan didn’t
participate in that rehearsal) Gorenstein has pronounced a phrase,
which has caused his dismissal.
Is it fair to dismiss a person, that has devoted 9 years of his life
to the orchestra and has made it one of the most popular in Russia as
well in the professional and economical sense just because of one rush
word? As it all turned out, it is quite simple if there are three
components: secret order of the authorities, challenging character of
the conductor and betrayal of the colleagues.
- Mark, in your interview you said that you were not ready for that
situation; you didn’t expect it neither from the Ministry of Culture
nor from the musicians. Does it mean that before the scandal during
Tchaikovsky competition you didn’t feel the negative attitude towards
you and didn’t suspect the result of it?

- I did not expect it and that is why it was so hard to watch it.
There were a lot of musicians I have been working with for many years,
and with the most of them I had not just good but also very friendly
relations. I could not realize that these people are able to arrange
the situation like that. I still cannot understand it. Even people
acting under the pressure of the Ministry of Culture could not descend
to that level.
- You have probably read the unflattering comments about you on the
Forum Classic (even though a lot of them were under pseudonyms), which
have appeared long before Tchaikovsky Competition, haven’t you? And
Russian journalists were not favorable to you as well...
- You know, in fact, the history of this persecution has began not now
and not with the current minister. Back to 2000, when Svetlanov was
expelled from the orchestra, I was offered to replace him, but like
some of the other conductors, I have refused to join the team, where
the meanness has won, and that was the beginning of the persecution.
- Do you draw an analogy to the current situation?
- The situations are pretty similar, the difference is that it was not
provoked by the Ministry of Culture, although it was encouraged by it.

Moreover, the story of Y. F. Svetlanov has been going on for three
years, not three months, as it was in my case. And even those
musicians, who have "disqualified" the great Svetlanov, have not
reached the degree of meanness of the current musicians.
- So do you define that situation, as being attacked by the musicians?
- More precisely, it was the persecution of the conductor with the
permission of the authority. And this should not happen in the
country, declaring the priority of laws which should work as well in
respect of journalist’s responsibility for published material. In
2002, when I was assigned as a chief conductor in the Svetlanov
Orchestra, journalists were acting as if let off the leash. They said
what a bad conductor I am, that I can’t do anything, justifying their
conclusions with my discordant name, education that I’ve received not
in Moscow, everything but facts. Honestly, I was annoyed by it, but
not really worried because the only criterion that determines the
success of a particular artist - is the attendance of his concerts.
And during eighteen and a half years of my work in Moscow, there was
only one year without full halls. That was the first year working with
the "Russian Symphony Orchestra" («Young Russia"). Starting next
season, we were playing in the crowded halls. Therefore, when you read
reviews of the Russian and Western critics who have visited our
concerts, the picture is much different than that being described in
the reviews of the biased journalists.
- Good. Let's go back to the reasons of the discontent of musicians.
Why are they calling themselves "new serfs"?
- Let's start with the goals, the conductor wants to achieve in order
to make the orchestra successful, in demand of playing at the highest
level. Certainly, it is necessary to make people feel responsible for
their work and to be ready to do it. Yes, I was forcing them to
prepare for the first rehearsal.
- It goes without saying, doesn’t it?
- Probably, it is hard for the “western” person to understand that
Russian musicians can come to work completely unprepared. I was
forcing them to learn their musical parts at home, and if they have
not learned the music they would be fined. There was no other option.
Maybe that's why musicians observing the other orchestras were feeling
as serfs.
- Do you want to say that in the orchestras of Spivakov, Bashmet
musicians do not learn their parts and they get away with it?
- I want to say that not many people like of my insistence, pedantry
and absolute dictatorship concerning music. And I believe that if the
conductor – such as
Spivakov or Bashmet - comes to work with the perfectly studied score,
why can’t he demand the same from the musicians. To achieve the
desired result from people who read the music, no matter how well they
do it- is impossible.
-Why does the Ministry of Culture have ignored your arguments, and a
letter written by famous musicians in your support? And, was there the
verification of the facts concerning the letters of musicians who have
refused to work with you?
You do not want to understand the main thing: not the orchestra
invented the whole story, but the Ministry of Culture, and it would be
strange if they would had themselves tested. Put the fox guarding the
hen house – pretty stupid occupation. Today, it is clear that the
whole story was planned in advance, brilliantly staged and remarkably
accomplished.
- The same version was recently announced by Jan Smirnitsky in the
article "Tiger’s Jump in the Soft Gloves", dedicated to the
anniversary concert of the State Symphony Orchestra. Here are the
things he writes: "... he (Jurowski – Z.M.) was notices for the first
time at a concert by the second highest official of the state, asking
“why aren’t you working in Russia? “(Momentarilly all have suddenly
woke.) "And then Mr. Smirnitsky has answered himself :" It's all
rumors. Groundless, of course. "
- It seems to me, he is referring to a conversation that took place in
St. Petersburg after a concert in June of that year. One very high
official expressed his surprise concerning the fact that the unknown
Russian conductor worked abroad. He replied that there is no worthy
place in Russia for him. The chief has replied (I'm sure he did not
mean me) that it would be good to find such a place. That's all. The
others thought and came to the conclusion that the only suitable man -
is Gorenstein, because there is nobody to protect him at the high
level. On the other hand, firstly, he is not a thief, and secondly he
is the holding the orchestra on a high level. You are looking it all
from the side and say the right things - why not to check the charges
in the letter? There is no need to check, as this letter was dictated
by them?




- So, do you think that there was a secret order to choose you, and
the officials and the orchestra enthusiastically have encouraged it.
- Exactly.
- Did you know that everything was clean concerning the finances,
otherwise you would continue to be desperate to prove your innocence.
- Of course, I knew that there was nothing to carp. Recently we heard
a lot about dismissal of the heads of federal agencies. Why they have
not allowed themselves to rebel? Because with the number of stolen
money one word of perturbations would mean an immediate imprisoning.
And I do not take the money, do not give bribes, do not drink.
- You talked to Avdeev for more than an hour trying to explain your
position and to hear the specific reasons for dismissal.
- Yes, and he couldn’t say anything concrete for an hour, could not
produce a single fact, but, despite all of this, summed up: "I will
fire you in any case."
- "In any case" means - I want, I can and I will do it?
- Exactly. But we need to understand who is Avdeev. This is a man who
worked in the Foreign Ministry, has never been as the former federal
supervisor before the appointment and having the same attitude to the
culture as I have to the universe. Why is it possible to take any
person and to assign him to manage the Ministry of a huge country?
Recently the Minister of Finance was dismissed - one of the most
successful people in this position in the history of the Soviet Union
and Russia. But to replace him, his deputy was appointed, not the
marketing director, for example. But in the culture since the Soviet
times, for some reason, you can do everything.
- You were fired under Article 278 part 2 (due to the decision of the
authorized body on the termination of the employment contract). As I
understand that according to this article, the head (but not ordinary
worker) of federal organizations can be dismissed (fired) even without
explanation?
- Really, this is a unique article, which has no analogues anywhere in
the world. Head of a department has the right to dismiss people at his
own request and is not obliged to report to senior management. Simply,
his decision may depend on his mood. If the State Duma thought before
adopting the law of giving the right to dismiss anyone just because
someone wanted it, then this precedent would not happen.
- In fact, the main "accusation" was the humiliation of the human
dignity. There are 100 people in the orchestra, 62 of them have signed
it.
- Yes, the others, despite intimidation and threats, decided to not
participate in this. You know, I had a certain number of colleagues,
in whose decency I was absolutely sure. And I was wrong. So, on the
17th of August musicians have signed a letter, and the next day I
called one of them - a person who was invited to my house to celebrate
New Year, and was considered to be a friend. I asked him - have you
signed? His reply was “yes”. I said – “my congratulations” and hung
up.
- What would you do in such situation?
- I know I wouldn’t have done so not because a clear conscience is
more important than anything else. The very story of this letter is
rather strange. On the 27th of June the orchestra members wrote a
letter to the minister that the relationship in the orchestra are
normal, and there was no problems with the national issue. And on the
17th of August, that is, six weeks later, the same people demanded my
dismissal. If we can recall the facts from June 30th to August 5 -
the orchestra was on vacation, and we didn’t meet with the musicians
till the requiem for N. A. Petrov, and then I was on a sick leave, the
question arises: what was the reason of changing the attitude towards
me? And when you start looking for a logical explanation, and
involuntarily connect a second letter with the visit of Sergei
Girshenko to the Ministry of Culture. It was the 15th of August, and
apparently after receiving the "valuable" instructions there, the
complaint of 62 musicians occurs on the 17th of August. And I know the
way these signatures were collected. On the 5th of September there is
another, a third letter - from the musicians I’ve dismissed, that are
no longer working in the orchestra. And then it turns out that some of
the signatories were not even aware of the existence of this letter.
Moreover, two of them even wrote a refutation – you can find it on the
Internet.
-In this story, do you blame yourself for something? Perhaps you have
made a mistake somewhere.
- Do you know what I feel guilty of? I felt like it was the right
thing to demand hard work on stage, and to be friends after work. I
thought that the things that were happening on stage, my rehearsal
emotions have nothing to do with my ordinary life. And in the end it
turned out that I am a really "bad" person, because during all these
years I was handling the personal problems of musicians, such as
arranging spots for their children to kindergarten, making
appointments with doctors, favoring a teaching job, requesting for the
titles, lending money without always getting it back. I am of course,
a bad person, but our orchestra was the only orchestra in Moscow where
all the musicians were provided with medical insurance. Once we got
the grant, I organized a fund where all donated money which were
distributed among the retired musicians of the orchestra. This way,
our pensioners received so called a “second pension”.
- So, it has happened, Gorenstein was fired. What were the first steps
of the "new serfs" from the slavery to freedom?
- First of all, they have immediately cancelled the setting of the
horns, which I’ve introduced when I came into the orchestra it started
25 minutes before the rehearsal. The restof the orchestra had to
practice in some other rooms. Now the musicians come in 10-15 minutes
before the dress rehearsal. Secondly, they have cancelled the main
rehearsals. Indeed, why do they have to go to the hall twice a day if
the rehearsal can smoothly turn into a concert? Everything was done in
order to work less.
- Was it offensive?
- These people do not deserve to be offended by them. Avdeev said that
time of Gorenstein is over. Fortunately, his time is passing by as
well and his name will be pronounced with a mockery and horror because
there were no ministers who have made as much of dirty tricks as he.
Signing a contract with Vladimir Jurowski, he complains that the
orchestra is in bad condition and thus allows him to spend with the
orchestra six (!!) days of the season, that is, two concerts. Even the
journalist Jan Smirnitsky I said about Jurowski – the main person who
invites, referring to his functions as a head, that is going to invite
conductors instead of working with the orchestra by himself. So what
should be the condition of the orchestra if it exist without the chief
conductor, and is ready to play with Dutoit, Temirkanov, Elder?
- During the years when I was working in Moscow, without stealing
musicians I’ve created two orchestras. One is run by Yuri Bashmet, the
other is Svetlanov’s. Of course, it’s pity that those who are living
for the sake of job and become successful are unceremoniously
dismissed, and other who would destroy the creation, were put on a
pedestal and promote. After all, almost all conductors who have been
working with the State Orchestra, were forced to leave , such as
Rachlin, Ivanov, Svetlanov ...
- It is said the less you try to think about the bad things, the more
difficult it is to do. And if you are asked to remember the good
things what will come to your mind firstly?
- Fortunately, the fate gave me the opportunity to cooperate and make
friends with wonderful people, great performers, including Mstislav
Rostropovich, Natalia Gutman, Viktor Tretyakov, Yuri Bashmet, Vladimir
Minin, Nikolai Petrov. I am
proud to have played in the best concert halls of the world, that all
18 years of my work in Moscow we had full halls during our concerts.
You know, someone said that the truth has always witnesses. My
witnesses are remarkable recordings of the orchestra and the memories
of hundreds of people who came to our performances.
Interview conducted by Zoe Master
"RUSSIAN MARKET" USA 2011