It’s maybe worth taking note of various great Ukrainian musicians and quoting some of the equally great Russians they collaborated with, or studied: Sergei Prokofiev (Sviatoslav Richter); David Oistrakh (Kyrill Kondrashin; Rudolf Barshai): Nathan Milstein (Horowitz, Glazunov); Leonid Kogan (Rostropovich; Gilels); Valentina Lisitsa (due to record Rachmaninov’s complete piano works. She has already recorded the complete Tchaikovsky solo piano pieces); Shura Cherkassky (Yuri Temirkanov) and so forth. I doubt that any of these musicians, when collaborating, would have given the least thought to their place of birth, or the origins of their musical collaborators. The music and only the music is what bound them. In that they were as close as it was possible to get.
I myself had Ukrainian grandparents on my mother’s side. But there’s a catch. The very word Ukrainian didn’t enter my life prior to the fall of Communism. Until then, I’d always (proudly) considered myself part-Russian (the Odesa-born violinist David Oistrakh was a member of my maternal grandmother’s family). That’s certainly how I thought when I visited Moscow and St. Petersburg 30 or so years ago. Now I find myself erecting mental/emotional barriers where previously there weren’t any – all because of one sick man. I have to stop myself doing that.
By and large the Russian people have nothing to do with this. They are pawns in a ghastly, murderous game. The Ukrainians are behaving impeccably, led by a true hero. There was a heart-breaking shot on TV this morning of an 8/9-years old kid stomping along the road crying his eyes out. It broke my heart. I could imagine my granddaughter in the same position (God forbid), reacting in much the same way. Even Valery Gergiev, foolish as he appears to have been, made some wonderful music at home and abroad – Bruckner, Mahler, Wagner, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and so much more. Are we now to turn our backs on his considerable musical achievements because of his silence re Putin? Has it occurred to anyone that he knows things that we don’t, that he can’t openly disclose (maybe regarding Putin’s sate of health, for example)? He can easily see how much support Zelenskyy is receiving and is possibly grateful. The air will have to clear and all the gun/bomb-smoke with it before we can make accurate judgements about who says or thinks what, who is silent, and who isn’t. Gergiev could still be found wanting big-time, that’s for sure … but wait and see. In the meantime, let’s be nourished by all the amazing Ukrainian/Russian musicians.