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Exclusive: Musicians in three Moscow state orchestras have not been paid since Christmas

A conductor in Moscow has contacted us about the grave situation in three orchestras – the Moscow Philharmonic (led by Yury Simonov), the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia (led by Vladimir Spivakov) and the State Symphony orchestra “New Russia” (led by Yury Bashmet). Although each is endowed with state subsidy of around $3 million a year, none has seen a kopeck from the Government since December. As a result, 300 ┬ámusicians and their families are going hungry.

Our informant has asked to remain anonymous. Some further background can be found here (in Russian).

President Putin is due to attend the opening of the lavish new Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg (below) next month. It’s about time he remembered to pay the state’s musicians.


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  1. Moscow has about the craziest orchestral scene I’ve ever seen. About eight orchestras, most of them outstanding, that play regular series at the three main halls – but none about more than a dozen concerts a year. Little if any overlap in the personnel. Plenty of other orchestras that exist on paper, but don’t seem to perform much. Can’t conceive of how the musicians make a living – except at the Bolshoy, Russian National Orchestra, or Tchaikovsky SO, the latter two of which seem to be on tour constantly.

  2. The picture you have from new Mariinsky, is actually the controversial project which has never been realised. The actual theatre looks far more mundane

  3. Correct me if i am wrong, but according to the article to which NL provided a link, the orchestras have not received “presidential grants” since last December. That does not mean that “none [of the musicians] has seen a kopeck”. The text seems to imply that they were paid their regular salary only (3000 rubles a month) which is of course a terribly low wage for living in Moscow, but still a little bit better than nothing at all. It is the supplemental money that they call “presidential grants” which has not been paid for almost four months. If anyone can find some other reliable independent information that contradicts my understanding of the situation, please share it. In any event, it looks like economic conditions for fine orchestral musicians in Russia are utterly unenviable, to put it mildly.

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