Stewart Goodyear replaces Valentina Lisitsa

A change has been announced for the Toronto Symphony concerts this week on April 8 & 9, a concert I was eagerly anticipating, wanting to hear Valentina Lisitsa in person (as I wrote yesterday).

But today the announcement was made that it will be Stewart Goodyear instead of Lisitsa, a performance that I’m just as eager to hear, even if these are hardly ideal circumstances for Goodyear.

There are critics lined up on each side of the question, perhaps rushing to judgment before all the facts are known. Norman Lebrecht questions the TSO’s actions.

On one side you can read something supporting Lisitsa. The language of this post is as hyperbolic as a Soviet era diatribe.

It is no secret that nowadays many alternative media activists face appalling state-sponsored censorship in many nominally free and democratic Western countries. Now it seems that such censorship has penetrated much deeper than we have come to expect. Art itself, the truest form of free expression, is being silenced.

On the other side you can read an analysis that’s much more even-handed, simply quoting the pianist and some of her remarkable comments.

On August 28, 2014 Ms. Lisitsa Tweeted despicable racist commentary with photos of African villagers juxtaposed with Ukrainian schoolteachers. Her snide remarks scoffed at African stereotypes because they wear “tribal dress” as being inferior and unworthy of “Europe”.

I recall the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. This concert was already news, but the TSO have taken the extraordinary step of paying Lisitsa her fee even as they cancel her appearance. That she’s being replaced by someone who is a favourite son in Toronto mitigates the cancellation. I’m an even bigger fan of Goodyear, even if I am disappointed that we didn’t get to hear Lisitsa.

Jukka-Pekka Saraste

While I don’t know who to believe, it’s nothing new to have artists –especially the great ones–who are fools, monsters, jerks. Wagner was a notorious anti-Semite. I wrote about Lisitsa in context with Justin Bieber, never suspecting that maybe she too will need a celebrity roast to persuade us to feel sorry for her, and maybe to forgive her.

And overshadowed in the circus, does anyone remember that Jukka-Pekka Saraste is coming back to Toronto? I’m looking forward to hearing him conduct the Mahler 5 with the TSO.

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4 Responses to Stewart Goodyear replaces Valentina Lisitsa

  1. Davis says:

    Don’t be surprised if Mr. Saraste decides to give the TSO his walking papers. He doesn’t need this pretentious cultural backwater, government-behind-kissing, yoke around his neck. He will receive international acclaim for taking a stand. He has probably been wanting to leave for quite a while anyway.

  2. Daniel F, Tritter says:

    the great and plain spoken harry truman said,”if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” it appears that this pianist persists in making a fool of herself and expecting some sort of reward. she has left her homeland to live elsewhere, and at that not in a nation with contempt for free speech and dissent. as demonstrated continuously, ex-kgb functionary putin has no relationship with international law or with freedom of expression.

    the replies posted here are similar to all such collections of diatribe., e.g. change the subject, or “oh yeah? so’s yer ole man.” I used to hear this level of debate on the schoolyard playground. as it stands, this former ukrainian (miss lisitsa has chosen to live in the united states, not in the freedom loving russia she for which she has expressed her admiration) pianist signed what I suppose to be a standard soloist contract with the excellent toronto symphony. events created by the trash talking pianist have caused the orchestra to think of its business interests being harmed by her offensive public statements and have caused the orchestra to invoke them as an anticipatory breach and, notwithstanding any possible liabilities, has paid her contractual fee in full and canceled the engagement. miss lisitsa has no possible remedy, though an apology would have been a demonstration of regret for her intemperate and unprovoked conduct.

    some here may recall a comparable occurrence some decades ago, when the boston symphony
    orchestra took as similar action against the actress vanessa redgrave, who had made some very provocative comments about Israel in the perpetual disputes with the palestinians. one of my colleagues was counsel for redgrave in a well publicized court case, largely upholding the orchestra’s side. though not familiar with canadian law, I would expect an outcome no different in the orchestra’s favor.

    as it stands, mioss liisitsa has continued her screed and probably has dealt her career a self-inflicted wound. my reaction: “tough apples, lady. your fault. your problem.” maybe your idol, mr. putin will help you salvage your future in a few concerts at the sevastopol orchestra. on a personal note: if i were in the artist management business, I would be relieved not to be her manager.

    Dan Tritter,
    New York

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