The applause was so intense and prolonged that it seemed to reveal more than just enthusiasm for musical excellence. It had been many months since a leading international orchestra, the Symphony of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, had been conducted by one of the most renowned batons in classical music today, Valery Gergiev. And the emotion overflowed on Monday in Valencia twice: when the pianist Alexéi Volodin concluded the Concerto for piano and orchestra No. 2 of Rachmaninov and when the monumental Fantastic symphony by Berlioz.
Gergiev was also satisfied with the “miracle” that theaters open their doors despite the pandemic. “It is not fear, I am cautious, I am cautious because I have also lost several friends in the pandemic and I see people suffer,” said the director of the first major tour of Spain in months. “Now when you go up on stage, fear cannot be your friend,” he said.
On the stage of the Palau de la Música in Valencia, which scheduled the concert (although it was held in neighboring Les Arts as the auditorium was under construction), the 67-year-old Russian musician removed his mask when he raised his tiny baton to direct the almost 60 interpreters in which the orchestra has been reduced to keep the pandemic distances. All of them have had to pass PCR tests to travel to Spain, although they have not had to go through quarantine as would happen, for example, in Germany. The string musicians kept the mask on during the two-hour concert of a group that ended up at the National Auditorium in Madrid on Tuesday (where it performs today), on Thursday and Friday at the Auditori de Barcelona and on Saturday in Girona, with some variations in the program of a tour organized by Agencia Cámera.
Serious and solicitous, and before asking with determination that the questions of the press conference stick to the music and not go into the political arena, as had happened on two occasions, the person in charge of more than a thousand musicians, dancers and workers at the renovated and mythical theater of St. Petersburg, the cultural jewel of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, compared the art of directing to good wine.
Maturity is reached with age because “like a good wine, it is when the golden pages of a biography are written”. “You have much more experience and you do your job even better than in the most energetic years, between 40 and 50 years,” he responded about the advice that his former teacher, Ilya Musin, dedicated to him.
When he finished directing his first opera at the age of 25, Gergiev turned to his teacher and exclaimed: How difficult it was! Ilya reassured him: “Don’t worry, only the first 70 years are difficult.” “Maybe my teacher was right,” joked the Moscow musician.
A great teacher, according to Gergiev, must “be an intelligent and focused person because, no matter how good you are, you cannot afford to push people away, insult or think that you are above good or evil.” “You have to read a lot, you have to listen a lot and, above all, you have to work a lot,” he added.
Even if a conductor reached the age of 150, “it would be impossible for him to play all the great compositions of classical music.” His idea is to direct works that are not part of his repertoire, such as Rossini’s opera Guillermo Tell. He also recalled the great satisfaction it gave him two years ago to conduct Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 for the first time despite the great admiration he has always professed for the Austrian composer.
Musicians and Politics Gergiev is also the head of the Munich Philharmonic. In October, the Russian opponent Alexei Navalny, recently detained in Moscow, called in Germany for a veto from Europe against artists such as the director because of his closeness to Putin. Asked about the question, Gergiev said: “Musicians do not focus on politics. I conduct about 200 concerts a year. I do not have time for that. I have continuous relationships with six renowned orchestras, with the Mariinski musicians, dancers, singers and that is the life that fills me and interests me. We don’t get up thinking about what the current party has said because there have always been oppositions and conflicts in the countries ”. And he added that if you were asked about the situation in the United States, after the assault on the Capitol, he would say that it is “unusual”, but could not expand further.
Gergiev gave a concert at the Roman theater in Palmyra in 2016, during the war in Syria, which was interpreted as a instrumentalization of Putin’s power, who intervened telematically. The director rejected it outright: “It was not a celebration concert, but in memory of what had happened “on some stones” more than 2000 years ago, one of the achievements of civilization such as the pyramids of Egypt, where you could still see the blood shed by torture and murder.