On October 7 in Berlin, Gidon Kremer will give a concert in Berlin, protesting against the suppression of free speech and human rights in Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian state of Russia.
Two weeks later, in Kazakhstan, Valery Gergiev will conduct the opening of ‘Eurasia’s largest theatre’, a $280 million pantheon built for the benefit of the ex-Soviet state’s wholly unreformed president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Western musicians can earn up to $3 million entertaining the ruthless Nazarbayev, who treats his oil workers like slaves and his citizens as silent puppets, or prisoners. Some, like the sensitive Sting, have been persuaded to pull out of Kazakh concerts.
Gergiev, though, is made of tougher stuff. Happy to serve the Putin autocracy, he has now added another dictator to his pack.
Performing in Russia and its satellites states has become a matter of choice and conscience for musicians who strut the world stage. Gergiev represents the blind-eye brigade, Kremer the proud line of Andrei Sakharov who applied his life to the struggle against tyranny.