By Fred MAZELIS

The New York Philharmonic Orchestra has quietly announced a complete change in the program for the May 10-12 performances at its newly renovated Geffen Hall at the city’s Lincoln Center arts complex. Russian conductor Tugan Sokhiev was originally scheduled to lead the famous Leningrad Symphony by Dmitri Shostakovich. The Leningrad has been cancelled and Sokhiev will not be on the podium. He is being replaced by James Gaffigan, in a program including a work by the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov, along with Prokofiev’s Third Symphony and Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto.

A few months ago, the Philharmonic box office was still selling tickets for the May concerts that were clearly marked “Leningrad Symphony.” At some point this was changed, although not all ticket holders were even informed. When asked this week about the change, the orchestra’s press office first cited “artistic decisions.” A day later, it was attributed to “scheduling conflicts.” A look at Sokhiev’s upcoming concert schedule reveals, in fact, that he is scheduled to be leading the Munich Philharmonic on those dates. But clearly more than a scheduling conflict is involved.

Sokhiev was until last year the music director and principal conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, which he had led since 2014, and also the music director of the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse in France, a post he assumed in 2008. One year ago, he was scheduled to conduct a program of music by Russian composers in New York, an appearance that was suddenly cancelled about a month after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The orchestra issued a press release explaining that, “out of regard for the current global situation,” Sokhiev would not lead the program. The decision was said to be a mutual one, but, as the WSWS pointed out at the time, Sokhiev likely had little choice in the matter. At the same time, last year’s press release announced that the Philharmonic “very much looks forward to welcoming him [Sokhiev] next season.”

Well, next season is clearly here, and the “current global situation,” a euphemism for the US/NATO proxy war in Ukraine, is continuing, with various NATO members calling for its escalation. This is the likely reason for the “scheduling conflict” that has suddenly appeared. The WSWS last year called the cancellation of Sokhiev’s appearance “giving in to anti-Russian prejudice,” and the same applies a year later. This time the Philharmonic has not issued a press release, nor is it promising an appearance in the future. The page on the orchestra’s website devoted to Sokhiev simply states, “NO CONCERTS” both for the 2022-23 season (the second consecutive year his appearances have been cancelled) and for the 2023-24 season.

Philharmonic chief executive Deborah Borda, while denying any ban on Russian music, was quoted last year as saying there could be “no blanket decisions” about performances by Russian musicians with the orchestra. Whatever the Philharmonic officials may say, their action on the Leningrad Symphony, and their failure to announce any future date for its performance, can only be taken as a continuation and even a deepening of the broader anti-Russian propaganda campaign.

Sokhiev joins a list of others who have either been openly banned or more quietly shelved. Prominent artists like soprano Anna Netrebko, bass Ildar Abdrazakov and conductor Valery Gergiev have been blackballed. New York City’s Metropolitan Opera has led the way, banning Netrebko and Gergiev last year.



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By GIL