Monday, May 2nd

by musicclipoftheday

sounds of Moscow

Alexei Lubimov (1944-, piano), live (4/13/22, Moscow), playing, after pieces by Ukrainian composer Valentyn (aka Valentin) Silvestrov (1937-), Franz Schubert’s (1797-1828) Impromptus (1827), until being interrupted by the police


Alexei Lubimov:

“Two months ago, we announced the program, of Valentyn Silvestrov’s vocal cycle ‘Steps’ with Yana Ivanilova and the Schubert Impromptus and some lieder. It was a planned event, and was publicized normally. There was nothing dangerous about it. But, on the morning of the day of the concert, the director of the hall [Alexei Munipov] got a call—I don’t know from which authorities—and they asked him to cancel the concert. He replied that he couldn’t cancel it because it was sold out, and that there was nothing problematic or dangerous about the program.

Before the concert, [Munipov] asked me and Yana Ivanilova to speak carefully during our introductions to the pieces, without references to politics or the war. And we did so. We just explained who Silvestrov is—a very well-known composer, of course a Ukrainian composer, a famous member of the avant-garde from the 1970s and ’80s—[and talked] about ‘Steps’ and so on.

We performed ‘Steps’ with great success. Then we began the second part, with the Schubert Impromptus, which were supposed to be followed by Schubert songs. But during the end of the first Impromptu, the policeman came into the hall, and announced loudly, ‘You have to leave the hall, because we have to check for a bomb. There’s been a bomb threat.’

I immediately understood that this was a provocation and that it was fake. So I continued to play, going into the second Impromptu. And the police were waiting at the entrance of the hall. But after four minutes, they came up to me at the piano. I was worried that they would close the piano, but they didn’t. When I finished, there was great applause, and cries of ‘Bravo!’ and so on.

They said we had to stop. I asked why. They explained again that there was probably a bomb, and that they were waiting for the bomb-sniffing dogs to arrive. I asked how long it would take. They said 15 minutes. So I told the audience, ‘Please, let’s follow the procedure. We’ll stop for 15 minutes.’ Everybody understood immediately: There were no protests, no political statements. It was absolutely quiet and polite.

We left the hall, but we couldn’t go back inside. The bomb-sniffing dogs didn’t come until two hours later. The police said they were just following orders, and they obviously didn’t know the music or why they had these orders. But it was immediately obvious to us that they wanted to stop the concert because Silvestrov had spoken clearly about the war and Putin’s dictatorship in interviews. [Silvestrov is currently in Berlin.—Ed.] The authorities probably recognized the name: ‘Silvestrov means you’re against Putin and against the war.’ They probably thought his name was a dangerous anti-war symbol.

[The concert was interrupted] although Silvestrov’s pieces have been performed in this hall—just counting this hall—four times since December. He’s a famous composer, and despite his Ukrainian heritage his works are played often in [Russian] concerts of contemporary music. Even in these dangerous times.”


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Every moment of life is an attempt to come to life.

—Robert Duncan (1919-1988, The New American Poetry, ed. Donald M. Allen, 1960)