Breaking: Bolshoi chief conductor resigns in both Russia and France – Slipped DiscSlipped Disc

norman lebrecht

March 06, 2022

The thoughtful and principled Tugan Sokhiev has communicated his decision to a Russian music site:

I know that many people wanted to know my position on what is happening at the moment and were waiting for me to speak out.

It took me some time to process what was going on and to express the complex feelings that

First of all, I must say the most important thing: I have never supported any conflicts. I do not accept them in any form or manifestation. The fact that anyone can question my commitment to peace and think that as a musician I can ever advocate for anything other than peace on our planet is shocking and insulting.

During the various catastrophic geopolitical events that humanity has faced over the past twenty years as my professional career has developed, I have always stayed with my fellow musicians and we have always shared and expressed support and sympathy for all the victims of these conflicts.

This is what we musicians do: we express our thoughts through music, we say emotional things through music, we comfort those who need it with music. We musicians are lucky to be able to speak this international language, which can sometimes express more than any words known to civilization.

I am always very proud to be a conductor from a country as rich in culture as Russia, and I am also very proud to be a part of French musical life since 2003. That’s what music does. It connects people and artists from different continents and opposite cultures, heals the souls of people and gives hope for a peaceful existence on this planet.

Music can be dramatic, lyrical, funny, sad, but never offensive! I was convinced of this as a result of fruitful cooperation with a wonderful orchestra in Toulouse. My amazing team at the Bolshoi Theater proves this to me every time I conduct performances in Russia or when we are on tour with them in Europe.

Both in Toulouse and the Bolshoi Theater I regularly invited Ukrainian singers and conductors. We didn’t even think about our nationality. We loved making music together and being part of the music world. And today our position remains unchanged.

That is why I started the Russian-French Festival in Toulouse: to show everyone that the peoples of France and Russia are connected historically, culturally, spiritually and musically, and that I am proud of this connection between our two great countries that I love.

Today this festival is opposed by the authorities of the city of Toulouse. What a disgrace! I believe that this festival can achieve more in establishing friendly relations than political statements.

Over the past few days, I have witnessed what I thought I would never see in my life. In Europe today I am being forced to make a choice and prefer one member of my musical family to another.

I am being forced to choose between two cultural traditions.

I cannot see my colleagues — conductors, actors, singers, dancers, directors — threatened, treated disrespectfully, and become victims of a “cancellation culture.” We, musicians, are given an exceptional chance, by performing and interpreting these great composers, to help preserve humanity, keep it kind and with respect for people to each other. We, musicians, are called upon to recall through the music of Shostakovich the horrors that befell humanity in the Second World War. We musicians are ambassadors for peace. Instead of using us and our music to unite nations and people, in Europe they try to divide us and ostracize us.

Because of all of the above, and being forced to face an impossible choice between my favorite Russians and my favorite French musicians, I have decided to step down as Musical Director and Principal Conductor of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and step down as Musical Director of the Capitol National Orchestra Toulouse.

It was and always will be a great honor for me to know, work together and play music with the artists and musicians of these two amazing bands. I’m proud of them.

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