March 10, 2022
An upcoming all-Tchaikovsky concert by Wales’ Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra has been deemed problematic, and the program has been redesigned to remove all pieces by the famed Russian composer.
The concert, set to be held at St David’s Hall, in Cardiff, on March 18, was scheduled to feature Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812 Overture’ and ‘Marche Slave’ and to conclude with his ‘Second Symphony’. It will now comprise Dvorak’s ‘Symphony No. 8’, John Williams’ ‘The Cowboys Overture’, and Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’.
Martin May, the orchestra’s director, described the ‘1812 Overture,’ in particular, written to commemorate the Russian defense against Napoleon’s invasion in 1812, to be “inappropriate at this time,” citing the ongoing military conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
“The decision on this concert was very much based on the here and now. A member of the orchestra has family directly involved in the Ukraine situation and we are trying to respect that situation during the immediate term,” said the director, explaining his decision. “There were also two military-themed pieces as part of the programme, ‘Marche Slave’ and ‘1812’, that we felt were particularly inappropriate at this time. We were also made aware … that the title ‘Little Russian’ of ‘Symphony No. 2’ was deemed offensive to Ukrainians.”
May added that, despite the orchestra’s decision, there were no plans to change their summer and autumn programs, which contain pieces by Rachmaninov, Prokofiev. and Rimsky-Korsakov, concluding that “this is a one-off decision made with the best of intentions, and there is no intention to exclude Tchaikovsky in particular. He is one of my favourite composers. We are aware that, whatever decision we made, it would not go down well, so we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
The move comes amid a growing global backlash against Russian artists in light of the ongoing military conflict in Ukraine, including conductor Valery Gergiev, who has been dropped by his management, as well as festivals and concert series, for failing to condemn the Russian government’s actions, and 20-year-old piano prodigy Alexander Malofeev, who was canceled by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra despite his opposition to the war.