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Putin’s Russia: A conductor is told to face party bosses, not orchestra

The story below, translated exclusively for Slipped Disc, has gone viral among Russian readers. It suggests that some Government officials are falling prey to Stalin-era megalomania. The newspaper that reports the story is Government owned.

Vladimir Region Culture Official Ordered a Conductor to Turn Around




  • Rossiiskaya Gazeta, 19.06.13

    By Svetlana Bitkina

    Vladimir, Central Russia – After listening for a while to the Vladimir Symphony Orchestra, director of the Culture Department, Vladimir Trubin, arrogantly remarked to the conductor Artyom Markin, asking why he was standing with his back to the audience when the region’s top officials would be in attendance. He suggested to the well-known conductor that he should turn around to face the hall, with his back to the orchestra.

    The juicy phrase was heard at the rehearsal. Some witnesses say that the region’s top culture official used rougher language than just the word “back.” The orchestra was preparing for a solemn occasion – Russia Day, or the national holiday celebration.
    If Mr. Trubin had not known it before, he was reminded right away that up to the 19th century conductors did face the audience and did not see the orchestras they were conducting. Whether it was Hector Berlioz or Richard Wagner who first turned his back to the public, it was a pivotal moment in the history of music, which provided for a full contact between conductors and musicians.
    Mr. Trubin later said that it was a joke. But it still reverberates with much criticism. Mr. Trubin’s style of talking to his subordinates as if to serfs is being actively discussed in blogs and social networks, and the connotations are predictably negative.
    Local commentators recalled how Mr. Trubin, who is awarded with the honorary title of Merited Culture Worker of Russia, once came in a track suit to the celebration of the jubilee of the Russian statehood, how he demanded that the lyrics by the classical 19th century poet Apollon Maykov in a patriotic cantata of the time be “corrected” to better suit Russia’s current democratic system, or how he decided to mark the jubilee of Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky of Vladimir with playing “The Crusaders in Pskov” from Sergei Prokofiev’s “Alexander Nevsky”.
    “Various things happen at rehearsals” – said conductor Artyom Markin. “I did not take a personal offence. If I took offence with everything, I wouldn’t have built up the orchestra from nothing and wouldn’t have led it for 15 years. But I don’t think it was a good joke. We have wonderful musicians playing in the orchestra, including prize-winners of international competitions, graduates of the best conservatories. Some of them may have ignored the joke, others could have been offended.”
    Deputy head of the Culture Department, Vera Zinnatullina, said that the joke was make while the script for the event was being discussed.
    “The national anthem was for the first time played here with the full orchestra,” she said. After that, an award ceremony was to take place. The orchestra stayed on the stage. As for the conductor, Mr. Trubin suggested that he goes backstage during the ceremony. “So, he joked that the reason why the conductor was not getting the honorary title was that he turns his back to the bosses. It is only fitting to joke at a rehearsal, to relax the stress,” Ms. Zinatullina said.
    She contends that there is a campaign underway against her boss. However, the June episode was only one of many instances, for which Mr. Trubin has been criticized recently. Many people in Vladimir were disappointed with the way the 900th anniversary of Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky was marked. A local group even awarded Mr. Trubin with a mock “Woodpecker” prize. The regional “cultural roadmap” program was also a major disappointment. So, the bad language during the rehearsal was just the last drop.

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  1. PK Miller says:

    Stalin must be dancing a jig in Hell. This is what happens when a man believes his power to be waning, is insecure. He insists on controlling everything. I’m talking about the weak Putin, of course. When a ruler of any sort is comfortable with his authority, in his own skin, as the hoary cliché goes, he (or she) doesn’t need to control everything. This strikes me as close to a return to the Stalinist era. Orwell’s Big Brother would be delighted. Doesn’t sound to me like anyone is joking,,,,

  2. Floreta Labis says:

    Well in Romania in the Stalin era the situation was the same.
    My father was at that time the first chair clarinet in a v major orchestra in Bucharest.One evening ,before the concert ,while warming up he was approached by the administrator of the orchestra (a party member)
    with the remark “mr Labis if you would practice enough in your childhood you wouldn’t have to do it now ”
    It was a real serious remark!
    2013 ….this is too much!

    • I’m just wondering-what was the level of musical knowledge of the administrator of the orchestra-a party member???

  3. Steve Foster says:

    All I read was “Mr. Trubin later said that it was a joke.”
    The rest is history and speculation.

  4. Fourth Norn says:

    When Wagner went to Russia in 1863 and conducted in St Petersburg and Moscow, he turned to face the orchestra instead of standing amongst the players and facing the audience, as was the contemporary practice except for choral performances. This action caused a sensation and Tolstoy, who was in the Moscow audience, remarked that it was one thing to conduct a well-known piece from memory but quite another to look the artists in the face while doing it. He felt that Wagner’s ‘mysterious telegraphic signals’ would only confuse an orchestra, and that the conductor should be nothing more than a ‘living metronome’ whose sacred duty was solely to ensure that the orchestra kept time. It was Tolstoy too who remarked that the Tristan excerpts which Wagner conducted had the same effect on him as taking a substantial quantity of hashish!

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